Prepared for the Pandemic Then and Now

Seven to 10 days. That’s how long it took Stanford Children’s Health to pull together a master plan to respond to the pandemic in March 2020. Yet in all that rush, no one lost sight of what was most important: patients and families.

“Our response was driven by a primary focus of keeping patients and families safe,” says Luanne Smedley, executive director and associate chief nursing officer of women and infant services. “Each day brought something new to our attention, but we developed the bulk of our initial protocols in less than 10 days.”

Smedley was one of two incident commanders for the hospital, tasked with setting up the response to anything and everything pandemic. People jumped in to help, and the COVID Operational Oversight Taskforce was formed. The team of a dozen quickly tackled big items like creating a coronavirus surge plan while at the same time fielding hundreds of smaller items like deciding how many caregivers could be in a room at one time, creating signage, and determining technology requirements for virtual appointments. Safety measures around coronavirus screening, daily team huddles, visitation, and social distancing were in place across the hospital in less than two weeks. The task force still meets regularly today to stay on top of new developments.

“Our frontline nurses bear the brunt of COVID, but they never lose sight of what parents and families need. They not only focus on how to best care for patients; they also ask themselves, ‘How can we care for all patients equitably?’” says Grace Lee, MD, chief medical officer for practice innovation.

For example, an interpreter is always on-screen during telehealth visits and care team huddles with non-English-speaking families. Also, food is distributed at the pediatric clinics to families who need it.

“The pandemic has been a huge stress, yet it has brought out the best in us,” Dr. Lee says. “It has challenged us to consider how to provide even more holistic care for families—care that goes beyond the four walls of the hospital.”

To best serve patients, 70% of all clinic visits went virtual, and insurance companies got on board by dropping limits on telehealth visits. Since only one parent can be in a room at a time, visitors are given snacks and meal vouchers so they can stay at their child’s bedside. Meals are delivered to families after patients return home, and team members who were quarantined are given groceries and housing, as needed.

“There was a strong spirit of collaboration and a belief that we will get this done, no matter what. Everyone jumped in and got creative,” says Smedley. “Health care workers are resourceful by nature, so nothing could stop us.”

Stanford Children’s Health was ready then and is ready now to respond to the pandemic, always with an eye toward the best way to care for patients and families.

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