The world, as most of us know it, has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospice and palliative care professionals are also taking the steps necessary to ensure the safety of patients and care staff alike. The following is a relatively broad overview of some of the changes that have occurred across the hospice and palliative care industries. Some of these changes may differ based on different organizational protocols, local ordinances, and the rate of infection over time.
Minimizing Patient Exposure
Many new policies have been put in place in an attempt to limit patient exposure to possible carriers of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Some of these new rules include limiting specialist traffic through patient homes and care facilities. While doctors, registered nurses, and other specialists deemed officially “necessary” to patient care are allowed careful access, many others are now barred from physically accessing these facilities or patient homes. Most social workers, certain therapists, chaplains, and visitors must now communicate with patients and their families via video conferencing or some other form of telecommunication.
To further minimize possible virus spread within facilities, most specialists are screened for infection before beginning work. This screening process includes a comprehensive questionnaire about their past whereabouts, behaviors, and with whom they have come in contact. Their temperatures are also taken to detect possible fever.
Due to the ease of transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus from respiratory droplets, most caretakers are required to wear masks that cover their nose and mouths while working with patients. Most of these masks are likely surgical facemasks, though some may wear cloth facemasks where surgical facemasks are in shorter supply.
Those Working With Infected Patients
For patients who have tested positive for the COVID-19, entirely different protocols apply. Staff members caring for such patients (where they exist) are required to don the appropriate personal protective equipment—including custom-fitted N95 facemasks.
Though communication with patients is important, most interactions with patients and their families, chaplains, therapists, or social workers will continue to take place via video conferencing to limit the patient’s exposure risk.
Like you, we can’t wait for this pandemic to be behind us and for regular visitation to resume. However, for the sake of patient and staff health, we must remain vigilant. We’re all in this together.