COVID-19 “Catching” and “Connecting”
“I just felt closer to our residents and like I was really making a difference!”
-Samantha Bass Clinical Liaison
Early on it became evident that COVID-19 would require an “all hands-on deck” approach. Fortunately, this approach was not a foreign concept to Nexion Health. We were no stranger to emergency response and strategy, having a healthy number of our affiliates based in prime hurricane locations. However, this time, we had to be long-term focused knowing this emergency response to the virus would require enduring, wide-reaching, and sustainable responses.
Not long after our first few facilities were impacted by the virus, we realized the drain on resources. Not just personal protective equipment or testing supplies, but “human” resources. Our corporate clinical specialists and regional vice presidents were immersed in each affected facility’s response leaving them little time to function in their traditional supportive roles. The virus literally consumed every spare minute. It was time to call in the troops.
Nexion Health under the leadership of our COO, Meera Riner and VP of Quality, Tara Roberts, organized quickly what would become known as our “COVID Catchers” and “COVID Connectors”.
With our clinical team consumed with COVID-19 facility response we needed to expand our clinical chart auditing to “catch COVID” as fast as we could. Finding volunteers was quick and easy. Business development, clinical liaisons, rehab, compliance, and wound care support team members were immediately on board.
In less than a few hours, the team had full EMR access, received in-servicing on our surveillance findings and key symptomology to look for. For 60 plus days, these volunteers have combed charts shift by shift helping with the earliest possible detection of a possible symptomatic resident or change in condition.
COVID “catching” really became a win-win situation. Not only did our support team feel like they were making a difference they also gained valuable EMR navigation skills that will be useful even after COVID-19.
Being a “COVID Catcher” gave Ashley Jones, Area Director of Business Development a sense of peace. “For me this was almost a constant that kept me focused on the real reason of why we do what we do. Not being able to be in our facilities weighed heavily on my heart. Being a part of something that mattered made it easier to cope with the reality of COVID-19.”
“Taking part in the audits,” shared Dionne Stoneham, Area Director of Business Development, “expanded my knowledge base of our EMR and I was able to feel more confident while navigating to complete the reporting necessary for COVID-19 and learn new valuable reporting abilities.”
As Nexion Health affiliates begin to execute the “testing all” strategy with the support of its state and local health organizations, we are able to transition our “COVID Catchers” to their next assignments including developing safe strategies to pursue admissions again and set the stage for preparing for a post COVID-19 world.
Our portfolio includes some large nursing homes, in fact we operate the largest facility in the state of Colorado. A challenge of COVID-19 was the ability to communicate to so many stakeholders in the most thoughtful, meaningful, and efficient way possible. Our traditional communication would have been through our beloved Nexion Neighbor program, but with our staff focused on the individual care and attention of our residents during this demanding and stressful pandemic we realized we needed another strategy.
As with our “COVID Catchers”, finding volunteers to be “COVID Connectors” was a breeze. In fact, many volunteered to be both “catchers and connectors” which would mean working 12-hour days auditing multiple shifts and also meeting each family member’s choice of time for connecting.
Each volunteer received a significant number of residents who they would become the liaison to for communication, special requests, and comforting. After learning the preference of the resident or the resident’s family member, our “COVID Connectors” would carry out communication at the time of day, day of the week and method of their choosing. Some liked to communicate via text. Others liked a phone call. Some wanted both.
We found our “COVID Connector” gate keeper in our VP of Business Development, Cindi Phillips. Cindi took on the comprehensive task of ensuring all requests and questions were logged, followed up on and closed satisfactorily day in and day out.
Amid this terrible virus, beautiful things happened. Wishes were granted for specialty snacks-want a Dr. Pepper and some butterfingers? No problem! Mexican food and a new charger for your cell phone? Sure thing! Need a large print Bible mailed to you? It’s on its way.
Connecting virtually also became easily accessible and coordinated. Families and residents were connected via FaceTime or through our Telemedicine partner app, iDocsWeb. This also took a special gate keeper to help it be executed flawlessly. We didn’t have to look far for this special person. Ronda Marsh, Director of Physician & Post-Acute Relationships became our Super COVID Connector, tirelessly working to coordinate and satisfy every virtual visit request seven days a week.
On a more serious note, our “COVID Connectors” often were just a listening ear or spiritual partner or virtual shoulder to cry on, especially when the ugly parts of the virus struck. Cari Normand, Corporate Wound Care Specialist recalls, “It was new and awkward when it began—gaining the trust of a complete stranger from a location many states away from them seemed daunting. Soothing their fears, answering their questions, and providing information on their loved one gradually led to real and sometimes deep conversations.”
Also touched by this experience was Shamon Higginbotham, Corporate Director of Rehab Services and Denials Management. “During my calls we talked, laughed, prayed and sometimes even cried. At the end, they thanked me for my help, but in the end, I was the one that was blessed beyond measure having them in my life.”
The virus has impacted us in many ways. Fortunately, through these two groups of volunteers we have made something beautiful out of something so terrible. What a wonderful responsibility we have to take care of such an amazing population. To close, we leave you with this truth:
“As much as we were there to give to them, they gave to us as well.”
-Tracy Connor, VP of Compliance