Review Staffing Practices & Policies Amidst COVID-19 Blog Feature
Dr. Karlene Kerfoot

By: Dr. Karlene Kerfoot on March 26th, 2020

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Review Staffing Practices & Policies Amidst COVID-19

workforce management | staffing and scheduling

Much of the current news coverage about the novel Coronavirus is focused on dealing with equipment shortages, such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE). These material goods are vital to the COVID-19 response.

An equally important component to a successful response is ensuring that the front-line staff who will be caring for patients can be successfully deployed in a way that ensures the best patient care possible while also protecting staff from unsafe work conditions and burnout.

Here are tips for reviewing staffing processes, leading practices and strategies for streamlining them as your health system prepares to respond to the pandemic:

  • How are 2-6 week staffing plans created? Can any improvements be made to the process now so that your organization is better prepared for a significant increase in patients?
  • Even more important, how will your organization react to changing needs? As staffing needs increase, is there agreement across units and teams about where resources will go and which areas are top priority? Is there consensus about staffing practices across the organization so data-driven decisions can be made quickly when the situation intensity elevates?
  • If you need to open additional units, is there a plan for how those extra units will be staffed?
  • If you are closing or reducing workforce in some units (periop or ambulatory care), how can you use staff elsewhere?
  • What skills do all nurses have and what types of care can they provide regardless of specialty area if they need to float?
  • Can you quickly identify those who have gone through specialty training?
  • Does your staffing strategy include support staff, such as environmental and food services and transport teams?
  • What open shift management processes are in place to quickly fill open shifts?
  • How will you ensure that staff who are in quarantine are not scheduled or called in to work?
  • Are there tracking tools in place so that your organization can measure its reaction to COVID-19? For example, will you be able to measure the number of hours worked for COVID-19 cases?
  • Are you prepared to comply with new legislation regarding pay policies, especially time off related to COVID-19?

Your staff are at the center of an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking the time now to review, streamline and agree upon key staffing processes and policies can help your organization move quickly and decisively to optimize your valuable staffing resources.

We’re here to help our customers respond to this rapidly evolving situation. Check out our COVID-19 resources, including videos and a leading practice forum.


About Dr. Karlene Kerfoot

As CNO, Karlene is responsible for integrating the science of patient care, staffing, and clinical informatics into symplr solutions. Prior to joining symplr in 2011, she was the Corporate Chief Nursing and Patient Care Officer at three of the largest US healthcare systems. Previously she held positions in clinical practice, healthcare consulting, project management and academic appointments in Business Administration and Nursing. She holds a PhD from the University of Illinois, Chicago, an MA and BSN from the University of Iowa and has completed executive leadership programs at the Wharton School for Nurse Executives. Karlene has published over 400 articles in the areas of data-driven staffing, workforce management, leadership and patient safety. She writes a popular column on leadership for Nursing Economic$ and serves on the DAISY Foundation Board. She was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN), and has received numerous awards and honors.

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