By Tara Gibson - July 28, 2020
Across the country, urgent care facilities are responding to the fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing, decreasing, or consolidating operations. Coordinating staff schedules during these fluid times can be challenging, so how can urgent care facilities best connect with staff to avoid vacant shifts?
Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the operations of urgent care facilities. In the first scenario, many were overwhelmed as hospitals turned away all but the most critically ill patients in order to cope with the influx of patients suffering from the virus.
In the second scenario, as the facilities suffered their own staff shortages due to illness and self-quarantine - and patients generally kept away from medical facilities in order to avoid contracting the disease themselves - the number of services was reduced and consultations were conducted remotely.
In a third scenario, some urgent care facilities are temporarily consolidating operations by closing some facilities and expanding the services available in others. This this not only helps cover staff shortages, but also enables urgent care facilities to better comply with hygiene management requirements.
These scenarios can vary according the location of the urgent care facility, the rate of infection in that location, and the availability of staff - the second and third factors having the potential to change quickly if there is a significant, localized outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Rapid operational changes are more likely to impact staff than patients because the majority of patients either walk into an urgent care facility or arrange an outpatient appointment that can be re-scheduled if it is not possible for the patient to attend at an alternative site.
What is important is that the right staff are in the right place at the right time when patients walk in or arrive from another site; but, because of the nature of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it is rarely possible to plan rapid operational changes and staff scheduling well in advance.
In smaller organizations, facilities can manage rapid operational changes by phone; but, in larger urgent care groups, manual processes can be time-consuming when there are deadlines to meet, shifts to fill, and the possibility of staff being unavailable due to illness and self-quarantine.
Therefore, it can be beneficial for larger urgent care groups to implement a messaging platform with a polling module. This can save organizations a considerable amount of time and money alerting staff to a change of schedule, a change of workplace, and/or a change of duties.
When an organization implements a messaging solution, the platform is populated by synchronizing its contact database with an existing database. Staff can then be segmented into an unlimited number of groups and subgroups according to their role, location, or other attribute.
Then, should there be a rapid organizational change - let's say Facility A is temporarily closing and its staff being relocated to Facility B - managers can send a single group message to staff scheduled to work in Facility A advising them of the change in schedule.
The polling module sends the message in a question and answer format so staff from Facility A have to respond and indicate that they have received and understood the message. The polling module also provides the opportunity for staff from Facility A to alert managers they are unable to work in Facility B.
An example of how this works is:
Q: Facility A will be closed tomorrow and staff are requested to attend Facility B. Please indicate your availability to work in Facility B tomorrow by selecting one of the following options.
The platform collects and collates the responses so managers know if any staff member has not received the message about the change of location (in which case they need to be contacted manually). Managers are also alerted to staff members who need transport organized or who are unable to work.
In cases where an unwell or self-quarantining staff member results in a vacant shift that needs to be urgently filled, managers can send a further group message to staff with the same qualifications or skills who are not scheduled to be working in order to solicit their availability to fill the vacant shift.
Q: There is a vacant shift tomorrow in the pediatric department at Facility B. Please indicate your availability to fill this shift by selecting one of the following options.
Managers can configure the platform to close the poll once the first “A1” response has been received. This avoids a scenario where five or six positive responses are received, and a manager then has to confirm the shift with one employee and contact the remaining employees to tell them not to come in.
It is also possible to use a polling module without the close poll option to check on the wellbeing of staff who are off from work due to being ill or self-quarantining. The poll in this instance could help determine when staff are able to return to work in order to better plan future staffing schedules.
If you feel your urgent care group is finding it challenging to connect with staff during these fluid times in order to coordinate staff schedules and avoid vacant shifts, do not hesitate to get in touch and request a free demo of the our polling module in action.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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