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Preparing for the Next Wave of COVID Cases with Locums

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor

The coronavirus pandemic has shown no mercy, and hospitals and healthcare systems are being stretched to their limits. According to the statistics reported by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center on December 15, 2020, the United States has had nearly 16.6 million confirmed cases and more than 302,000 deaths. The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project has also reported more than 110,000 current hospitalizations as of the same date. 

In fact, the week ending December 12, 2020, logged several records for number of daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

As these numbers continue to grow, it is imperative that hospitals actively prepare and monitor conditions to deal with the surge of patients. Preparing for the next wave with locum tenens is a proactive solution to some of the most common healthcare issues of 2020. 

From staffing challenges to implementing telehealth, the stressors affecting our nation’s healthcare system continue to make an impact. But preparing for what’s to come by deploying solutions such as locum tenens providers, our hospitals, clinicians and support staff may be able to get some relief. 

Three major challenges of COVID’s next wave:

  1. Staffing shortages. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the United States, our healthcare providers are not immune. In fact, they are increasingly at risk due to close proximity and exposure to the virus. As more healthcare providers become infected, the country will likely see staff shortages as many facilities across the country are already currently experiencing. Staff shortages can cause a variety of trickle-down effects, such as increased medical errors, decreased patient satisfaction and lost revenue.

  2. Implementing telehealth. From virtual patient education to urgent care visits conducted via telehealth, it is no surprise that 2020 continues to see growth in utilization rates for telemedicine. Conducting patient visits by video is no easy feat, and requires the proper equipment, systems and training. Hospitals and practices that struggle to implement telehealth, or those that do not have the staff to provide these services, could find themselves with a major problem at hand.

  3. Facilities could become overwhelmed. As the next wave of COVID-19 coincides directly with flu season, most providers are already bracing for a surge. This means that facilities ranging from large academic medical centers to small rural hospitals could hit rough times due to limited resources, beds and staff to deal with an influx of acutely ill patients. In fact, several California hospitals have already hit 100 percent ICU capacity as of early December.


Three solutions: Preparing for the next wave with locums

  1. Proactively plan for staff shortages, absences and illness with locum tenens. By providing contingency workforce planning in the case of infection of staff, hospitals are better prepared for COVID-19. Especially during the traditionally busy holiday season, which can bring in an influx of patients and staff requests for time off, resident physicians may need a break to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue. Locum tenens can allow facilities to give their permanent staff a break without having disruptions to patient care and census.

  2. Use locum tenens to administer telehealth services. According to a recent article published in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), “Telehealth could have multiple benefits during the pandemic by expanding access to care, reducing disease exposure for staff and patients, preserving scarce supplies of personal protective equipment, and reducing patient demand on facilities.” Locum tenens providers who specialize in telehealth can be a boon to facilities that are struggling to successfully integrate telemedicine into their service offerings. If you have extensive telehealth experience, your skills can be especially needed during this time.

  3. Leverage locum tenens providers to battle the surge and ensure more patients get seen. According to CDC estimates, “influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.” If you combine these statistics with the current statistics on COVID cases, it is clear to see that many hospitals could become overwhelmed. One clear solution is the use of locum tenens providers to step in and provide hands-on care, in tandem with normal hospital staff. As more facilities hire locums, the number of opportunities for assignments is expected to grow.

Related:
How the Pandemic Has Changed Locum Tenens Jobs

The Importance of Locum Tenens in the New COVID Landscape


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