The Joint Commission issues pandemic special edition Sentinel Event Alert on managing safety concerns of health care workers during COVID-19
- Maureen Lyons
- Corporate Communications
(OAKBROOK TERRACE, Illinois, February 9, 2021) –The continuing onslaught of COVID-19 is pushing heath care organizations to their limits and workers beyond physical exhaustion, inflicting emotional damage on those who care for patients. Public health experts project that high rates of infection and mortality will continue through the winter, despite the recent rollout of vaccines.
The pandemic is highlighting the absolute indispensability of a dedicated and fearless health care workforce, and the need to better ensure the safety and health of workers has become the topic of a national conversation.
To date, The Joint Commission’s Office of Quality and Patient Safety (OQPS) has received more than 2,000 COVID-19 related comments from health care workers, their loved ones and other community members during the pandemic. These comments are summarized in a new Sentinel Event Alert 62, Voices from the pandemic: Health care workers crisis. The document is first in a series of alerts that address health care workers’ concerns and provide guidance on how to respond to their crisis, helping prepare them for the often-overwhelming circumstances surrounding caring for patients during a pandemic.
According to the comments made to OQPS, some of the most common concerns health care workers have about the pandemic are:
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of getting sick
- Fear of bringing the virus home
- Staff shortages and other issues
To address these concerns, the alert encourages health care organizations to:
- Foster open and transparent communication to build trust, reduce fears, build morale and sustain an effective workforce.
Remove barriers to health care workers seeking mental health services and develop systems that support institutional, as well as individual, resilience.
Protect workers’ safety using the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) Hierarchy of Controls framework.
Develop a flexible workforce; evaluate the work being performed and determine if it can be performed remotely.
- Provide clinicians and others with opportunities to collaborate, lead and innovate.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted for much longer than many of us anticipated, and health care workers are feeling the physical and emotional strain of longer hours, higher patient-provider ratios and rising patient death tolls,” says Ana Pujols McKee, MD, executive vice president, chief medical officer, and chief diversity and inclusion officer, The Joint Commission. “While vaccinations offer an opportunity to end the pandemic, health care organizations have a responsibility to support their workers’ wellbeing for the long term.”
For more resources, The Joint Commission has compiled the Coronavirus Resources portal. The portal contains links to recommendations for staff health and wellbeing, webinar recordings and information on The Joint Commission’s advocacy efforts for health care workers during the pandemic.
The Sentinel Event Alert is available on The Joint Commission website. It may be reproduced if credited to The Joint Commission.
About Joint Commission
Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 22,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at www.jointcommission.org.
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