The coronavirus pandemic has given us a harsh reality check about the severe impact infectious disease and viruses can have on society. Fortunately, vaccines are now being produced, slowly but surely allowing us to battle the pandemic. However, what can we do if another one occurs in the future? That said, dealing with an epidemic is an unfortunate aspect of surviving in this world. With overpopulation, travel, and international trade, novel diseases have ideal conditions to multiply and spread. From the Ebola crisis to H1N1, humankind has dealt with tons of deadly outbreaks in the 21st century. But, the novel coronavirus is by far the most severe one. Nonetheless, with the constant efforts of leaders and healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses, we have made significant progress against the current pandemic situation. After all, these healthcare professionals are vital to preventing the spread of Covid-19 and mitigating the health issues it creates.
While the world is still recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak, public health officials and healthcare workers are already preparing for future pandemics. In addition, Healthcare organizations everywhere are preparing and training their workforce to deal with any pandemic that comes our way. But, how are they doing it? Well, this is why you’re here reading this article.
Here are some ways these healthcare organisations can aid their healthcare workforce with pandemic preparedness:
Help workers build competencies for pandemic response
There is no doubt that every healthcare professional involved with direct patient care duties and roles should receive information and training regarding the pandemic. Healthcare organizations should revise and develop guidelines, training modules, and procedures according to the latest global resources and evidence. In addition, they need to ensure that proper training is being given that covers protective measures, emergency response, etc. Moreover, they need to utilize global and national platforms to aid and fast-track learning and ensure that health workers have the credential and skills to tackle the pandemic.
For instance, healthcare leaders and organizations should provide CE solutions to frontline warriors, including emergency medical service providers and healthcare workers. It enables them to achieve better patient outcomes during an ongoing pandemic. After all, the more well-trained and educated the workforce, the better they can tackle the pandemic.
Train health workers on how to utilise PPE properly
PPE or personal protective equipment is crucial for any pandemic response team, whether a doctor, nurse, firefighter, or EMS professional. They must be equipped with the most effective PPE equipment and be trained to utilise it properly. Such a thing includes appropriately putting on and taking off PPE and its proper disposal after using it. They can do this by using simulation scenarios where workers have to put on and take off PPE in a particular amount of time.
Aside from the health workers’ usage, leaders and organizations should train social care workers and staff to help patients utilize PPE properly. After all, patients also have the right to protect themselves from any pandemic. Right now, PPE is the most effective way to avoid infection. So, in the end, healthcare organisations must ensure their workforce and patients remain safe and secure via the help of PPE. And proper training related to appropriate usage is critical.
Train health workers to prepare the public to do its part
Effective pandemic preparedness and response requires a consistent and clear message that reflects best practices backed by research and science. Data and facts that explain how each individual has a crucial role in curbing the pandemic are vital. That said, there are no better healthcare professionals to relay these messages than frontline workers. So, it is critical to train them to deliver this message to allow the public to participate in pandemic mitigation. In the end, pandemic preparedness requires a community-wide approach.
That said, during the current covid-19 outbreak, we saw a consistent pattern. There was a significant distrust in the governments and healthcare organisations’ vaccination and testing efforts. So, health workers are crucial for overcoming this barrier. Keeping this in mind, healthcare leaders and organisation should provide their workers with opportunities to learn multiple languages. Doing so will ensure they deliver public health messages to the general public on how vaccine and testing could save their lives.
Train health workers via tabletop exercises
Tabletop exercises usually simulate real-life emergencies to help health workers prepare for a crisis of every type. For instance, consider it as an emergency drill. Like firefighters perform fire drills. These exercises unite health workers from various domains and guide them through a hypothetical pandemic or disaster. Such a thing ensures proper role and responsibility management. Practice sessions must include individuals working in emergency management, public health, and healthcare along with local, state, tribal, and federal frontline responders and workers.
Moreover, these practice sessions will allow responders to test out emergency management plans and identify gaps that require strengthening. Additionally, ongoing training and testing related to the emergency management plan ensure every individual is ready to do their jobs more effectively.
Train workers on after-action findings
After every disaster or pandemic response, everyone involved, from EMS services to healthcare leaders to search and rescue departments, perform what is known as after-action reviews. These reviews help leaders improve their pandemic or disaster management plan for the next time around. For example, after the 2009 influenza outbreak, the CDC found that communication played a highly critical role. However, some non-English speaking Americans missed out on important public health messages.
Moreover, the after-action review also stated that vaccine supply didn’t meet the public’s demand and expectations. As a result, officials could train workers to administer vaccines at a faster rate. After all, vaccinating a large population is no easy feat. However, proper training and simulations inside a controlled environment will ensure frontline workers do their due diligence and administer vaccines faster.
A complete restructure or overhaul of healthcare systems won’t help prevent the next pandemic. However, the sad reality is that most worldwide healthcare ecosystems are segregated and siloed. It makes it challenging for health workers to share information and provide treatment properly. Nonetheless, training and improved interoperability between health workers will allow for more personalised and efficient healthcare delivery worldwide. With this in mind, consider following the guide mentioned above to ensure you and your healthcare organisation’s workforce stay well-prepared for any future pandemic.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.