MORE THAN A RESOURCE CENTER
Caring advisers supporting employees through a pandemic
It began with a barrage of employee phone calls the first week in March. COVID-19 had struck the community. Staff were panicked.
“A lot of people were concerned because of the unknown and we needed to fill in the blanks,” recalls Lisa Sanchez, executive director of Care Transition, a service within the Resource Center.
Many of the questions focused on safety. A spouse was returning from a business trip. Should he be tested for COVID-19? A family member was exposed to the virus–did the household need to isolate? Was it safe to travel to another city?
Sanchez and Kimberlea King, director of Care Transition, returned the first employee phone calls on a weekend from their kitchens. They quickly realized they needed a support team armed with information and assistance.
Suddenly employees who usually answer a help line, schedule doctor appointments and arrange medication refills had a new mission: providing their coworkers with resources to deal with a pandemic the world was still trying to understand.
“Our most important resource is our staff,” says King. “We want to let them know the health system has people in place to support them.”
Creating a Specialized Team
With backing from University Health System leadership, King and Sanchez began retraining employees for the new assignment. They absorbed staff from transportation, surgical operations and jobs placed on hold by the coronavirus. They collaborated with employee health, infection control and mental health experts to gather the information that brought reassurance and the services that were needed.
“We pulled together a group of people who had no idea what they were getting into and they made it work. They were doing it for their fellow employees and human beings,” says Sanchez.
From March through May, the COVID team handled 11,000 employee calls, and the volume of calls has remained steady since.
Keeping Employees Healthy
Making sure employees and patients have access to accurate COVID-19 testing with rapid results became a big part of the job. Keeping staff healthy is critical to maintaining good patient care.
The Resource Center team ensures employees do not have to wait to be tested, and they receive the results in less than a day. COVID-19 team members notify their coworkers of the results, answer questions and offer support. They follow up with those who test positive, asking about any complications that need further treatment.
In June, the team took on these same responsibilities for University Health patients.
Ready for Whatever Comes Next
COVID-19 is not going away, and neither is this special, rapid-response team. In fact, many of the workers reassigned to fill the needs created by the pandemic have decided stay full-time with the unit. They like helping others.
“They loved the opportunity to learn something new,” says Sanchez.
“They love what they are doing.
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