By Andrea Lebron - January 27, 2021
A blog published on the Joint Commission's website has highlighted a collection of best practices for safety in nursing homes during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Rather than being only suggestions to enhance safety, the best practices are already being used in some Joint Commission accredited nursing homes throughout the country.
The author of the blog – Sandra Carey – is responsible for surveying standards in Joint Commission-accredited long term care facilities. While conducting surveys last year, Sandra identified innovative ways in which nursing homes are protecting staff and residents from the risk of infection, and she shared a collection of best practices for safety in nursing homes in her blog.
The first of Sandra's best practices relate to the measures some long term care facilities have implemented to allow family members to visit residents when visitations are allowed under CMS guidelines. While most accredited nursing homes insist on a negative PCR test before allowing visitors into their premises, and ensure all visitors undergo temperature checks and sanitize their hands before entering, some have gone the extra mile to enhance the safety of staff and residents.
Sandra notes several nursing homes are utilizing disused dining rooms instead of communal areas for visits so family members are isolated from other residents. In some cases, only one pre-booked visit is held at a time – during which social distancing must be maintained. Typically visits are limited to just one or two family members, who are not allowed to bring home-laundered clothes or home-cooked food with them. Only food prepared and packaged by a restaurant is permitted.
Sandra also surveyed a long-term care facility that posted outwards-facing room numbers on the windows of residents' rooms. This made it possible for family members to turn up to the nursing home without an appointment and speak with their loved ones via a cell phone while being able to see them. Although not an ideal solution, this may be a suitable compromise for other nursing homes without the resources to support isolated visiting spaces or conduct temperature checks.
While Sandra acknowledges staff members have stepped up during the pandemic to learn the necessary protocols for handwashing and using PPE, she also acknowledges that staff members cannot always have eyes in the backs of their heads. Therefore, Sandra was impressed with how one nursing home employed and trained a full-time staff member to monitor compliance with COVID protocols and ensure visitors and staff signed their names whenever entering residents' room.
With regards to contact tracing, in her blog Sandra comments CMS has largely left contact tracing responsibilities to local authorities and healthcare organizations. Therefore, she was pleased to find a facility asked visitors to include their contact details on sign-in sheets and kept the sign-in sheets for fourteen days. Then, if a resident subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, it was a simple task to contact everybody who had been in the resident's room and advise them to self-quarantine.
Unfortunately, not every healthcare organization has the resources to employ additional staff or conduct contract tracing when a resident tests positive. For organizations in this position, the geo-polling capabilities of Rave Alert are a suitable substitute, and they can be used to conduct wellness checks on staff and visitors prior to entering a long term care facility – visitors being able to take advantage of Rave Alert's SMS opt-in capabilities to participate in a wellness checks program. Watch this free demo to learn more.
Two other best practices identified by Sandra related to holding units and preparing for state-mandated disaster drills. The “holding units” were effectively specialized isolation units for higher risk residents who were new admissions or transfers from a hospital. Residents placed in a holding unit would remain there for fourteen days and receive the same standard of care as other residents - the only difference for these residents being that they were unable to mingle with existing residents.
The holding unit concept had also been used by some nursing homes to isolate COVID-19 positive residents from non-infected residents and conduct separate disaster drills. This overcame the issue of having to practice evacuating residents in two separate buses to a location where the residents could remain isolated. However, it is important to note that while the Joint Commission sanctions separate disaster drills, they may not meet each state's preparedness requirements.
Nursing homes that have to conduct disaster drills for all residents simultaneously may find the exercise a logistical nightmare. However, with tools available such as Rave Collaborate – a module of the Rave Alert platform – long term care facilities can plan and execute disaster drills with minimal risk to staff or resident safety. To find out more about Rave Alert and how it can support Joint Commission best practices for safety in nursing homes, do not hesitate to get in touch.
Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.
Most people will be familiar with the concept of SMS opt-in because it is widely used in retail marketing campaigns....