Podcast | Episode 12: COVID-19 Response in 2020 with Joanne Hoertz and Kathy Barbour

Clinical Expertise

Dec 16, 2020

Welcome to the Brooks Rehabilitation podcast where we talk to our rehabilitation professionals to shed light on the stellar programs and services we offer to help our patients reach their highest levels of recovery.

We were joined by Joanne Hoertz, SVP of Nursing, and Kathy Barbour, APR, Fellow PRSA, VP of Marketing & Communications, to discuss Brooks’ response to COVID-19 throughout the year and how we innovated and persevered to keep our patients and employees safe.

Send us an email with your questions, comments or podcast ideas to [email protected]!

Listen to the full episode on your favorite podcast app! Search ‘Brooks Rehabilitation Podcast.’ You can also listen online. Below is a transcript of our newest episode.

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Podcast Transcript

Tracy Davis: Welcome to the Brooks Rehabilitation Podcast. My name is Tracy Davis. This week to talk about Brooks’ response to COVID-19, I was joined by Kathy Barbour. She is the VP of Marketing and Communications, and Joanne Hoertz. She is the Senior Vice President of Nursing. We thought having the two of them long would be a great combination to really cover a lot of the bases of what Brooks’ response has been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and we’ve learned a lot of things throughout all the obstacles that we faced, but I think Brooks’ response has been really, really well done. And we have innovated a lot of things. We’ve done a lot of things that not a lot of organizations have been doing. We’ve really been pushing the bar forward on just innovating things that we didn’t have to, but we did because it makes the patients and patient families’ lives that much better. So it’s a real testament to our organization.

Before we get into the episode, I would love to hear from you about the podcast. So please send us an email at [email protected]. You can also follow us on social media on pretty much any platform, just look for @BrooksRehab. And lastly, we would love for you to check us out over on BrooksRehab.org. Over there you can see our whole organization, every little bit of who we are, all the programs that we offer, the types of patients that we serve. There’s a careers page, if you’re looking to join our team. We have a jobs posted fairly frequently. So please join us over at BrooksRehab.org. One final thing before we get into the episode is just a big thank you to all of our employees. Throughout this year, we have all been asked to do things that go above and beyond our job roles, asked to do things that are difficult and we’ve stayed flexible.

We’ve continued to put our patients first. We’ve continued to put our mission, vision, and values first, and we’ve continued to push rehabilitation forward and making sure that those that are trusting us with their care are being cared for. So thank you to every single person. We’re in this podcast. We weren’t able to go over all of the stories that we know of, and I’m sure that there’s a bunch more stories that we don’t know of, but thank you for all that you did throughout this pandemic and all that you do on a continual basis. And with that, let’s get right into the episode. Thank you, guys, for joining me. If you guys would like to introduce yourself, Kathy, you want to start off first?

Kathy Barbour: Hi. I am Kathy Barbour, Vice president of Marketing Communications at Brooks Rehabilitation.

Tracy Davis: Thank you.

Joanne Hoertz: And I am Joanne Hertz. I am a registered nurse. I am the Senior Vice President for Nursing at Brooks Rehabilitation and a System Chief Nurse Executive.

Tracy Davis: All right. I bet all that didn’t fit on your badge.

Joanne Hoertz: No, it didn’t.

Tracy Davis: Be too much to fit on there. So again, thank you for coming on here. So we’re talking about COVID and the pandemic since we’re in December now, and let’s just start off by what were some plans that we had for 2020 that maybe they still got accomplished this year, maybe just in a different way or maybe some things that we weren’t able to go accomplish? What kind of comes to mind?

Joanne Hoertz: I think certainly there are things that were on the plan to get accomplished this year. And I think many members of the team realized that that wasn’t going to happen as soon as the end of February and March hit. Really being able to work on some of these specific goals in terms of like leadership development with nursing leadership, I know we were really derailed up until about September with that so that was one thing that comes to mind. I think our ability to get new staff hired, we had planned to have a system quality person come on board. That got derailed until December of this year. So we’re getting back on track with that. The way that we wanted to try to move more quality initiatives forward, for example, patient satisfaction, we were very derailed by not being able to have some of the group meetings that we had planned to have. We weren’t able to make a lot of progress, for example, in that goal with resources being diverted strictly to kind of managing the COVID response. Those are some of the things that come to mind for me.

Kathy Barbour: And for me, I’m coming at it from a slightly different perspective in that Brooks Rehabilitation was celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020. So we had all sorts of plans…

Tracy Davis: Yes, we did.

Kathy Barbour: … put Together to commemorate this outstanding milestone to celebrate our system and where we’ve come as a rehabilitation system in 50 years. Everything from large in-person gatherings to recognize our anniversary to having our employees be able to volunteer with our Brooks Cares platform and give back to the community, all sorts of great things to commemorate 50 years of service.

Tracy Davis: Right. Employee celebrations, all kinds of stuff. How early did you start hearing about COVID-19 and all that?

Joanne Hoertz: With probably the third week in February, when I began to hear about COVID-19 and attended a webinar that really kind of made me think very hard about what was going to happen in the very, very near future. There was projections of millions of people being diagnosed in the United States, which has happened. There was projections of PPE shortages, which happened. And at that point, at the end of February, I really got very concerned that we were entering into something that no one has ever dealt with and no one has ever really experienced and lived through. There was a lot of concern about how things were going to change, and it was extremely concerning to me about how we were going to manage to take care of patients and residents in light of this impending pandemic.

Kathy Barbour: Yeah, I would say that I was in tuned to it maybe a bit later than Joanne, what she’s mentioned, but early on the leadership team was having the conversations about this and making sure that we were monitoring it. And it wasn’t very long at all before we knew that this was something very different from an incident command crisis standpoint that we were going to have to manage together. I mean, some of us have worked through things like H1N1 in the past or Ebola. Living in Florida we definitely have to deal with the tropical storms and the hurricanes. And this was something unlike any other issue or crisis per se that the healthcare industry has faced before.

Tracy Davis: Yeah.

Joanne Hoertz: I would add to that, as Kathy mentioned, this was very different in how we were going to manage incident command. And I can tell you probably for the first maybe seven days, we were trying to do some individual training and thinking, Oh, this will be like Ebola. And then all the sudden, no, this is not going to be like that at all. And starting to have really daily incident command meetings, you know, many times seven days a week to be able to respond to how quickly things were changing and what the needs were in terms of communication and planning. That was very different. And I think we were fortunate to have a strong incident command structure, and we were fortunate to being working in a state that has a process to respond to disasters, having the setups that we have in Florida for reporting data and communication platforms really helped us, I think, in our COVID response.

Tracy Davis: Sure.

Kathy Barbour: And one of the things that we quickly identified was putting around that communications plan to make sure that our employees were aware of what was going on, patients, loved ones, family members, and how we were handling this with a very unique, I don’t want to say brand, but an identity per se, to Coronavirus communications so that folks could quickly tune in and make sure that they were up to speed with the latest information, whether it was tools on the website or tools on our internet for our employees’ signage and all of those things. It was just a very different situation than we’ve managed things in the past.

Tracy Davis: Yeah. And do you think maybe cause, you know, we went through those two big hurricanes coming, and so maybe like a lot of the point of who’s the point of contact for this and that and this and that kind of… Because I was really involved in the hurricane side of things, but do you think that helped us a little bit? … stupid question.

Joanne Hoertz: No. Definitely. I do think that helped us because I do think we were used to working in the incident command structure and responding to those hurricanes. Similarly, we were able to take that kind of communication and structure and who’s the point of contact and operationalize our COVID response accordingly. I think that that has definitely helped us to be more prepared.

Tracy Davis: So initially whenever things started getting more real, and it was hitting us all and everyone in the country was really starting to see that this was a real thing, what were some of the first, the big obstacles that we had to overcome as an organization from your perspectives?

Joanne Hoertz: I think one of the big obstacles, I’ll just call it an obstacle, is that we’re not set up to have some of the resources a larger health system would have. We have limited people who have high competencies in infection prevention and control. So we needed to quickly kind of get more people up to speed with what we were going to need in terms of infection prevention. I think we had to spend a lot of time trying to plan out how we were going to ensure there was appropriate staffing that we would need everywhere. There was a lot of COVID scares, a lot of concerns of transmission risks and I think managing exposures and when to quarantine and when to isolate, all of those things, we had to spend a lot of time developing skills around. And I think I lived and breathed COVID for about six whole months, and the first three months, I’d say we’re pretty significant where you’re just really learning as much as you can.

And then communicating with your colleagues to find out what is the response of this hospital or what is the Department of Health recommendation? And trying to pull staff together that really needed to work as a team and learn what they needed to do and get everybody engaged in, okay, we’re all going to have to have masks on every day. That was, I think, a big, sudden like, Oh my goodness, we’re going to have to wear a mask every day and getting people to understand why. Now it’s no big deal, but in the very beginning, there was a lot of need for continued education for everybody about why they needed to wear the mask, for example.

Kathy Barbour: And I would add on, you know, coming at it from managing the different populations that we were working with here, one being our employees, they were dealing with this trying to accept it themselves as being potentially impacted personally. As we all know, schools were shut down. Children didn’t go back to school after spring breaks, at least in-person school. So we had nurses, we had frontline caregivers, we had all sorts of impacts that we needed to navigate, daycares were closed. So one of the first things that we did early on was make sure we were there for our employees by offering a survey. And we put that out to really understand what their needs were or what their potential concerns were.

So that, as an incident command, we could address those. So while we were navigating instant requirements of masks and PPE and things of that nature, it was what resources could we make available or could we share with our employees about daycare options? What were ways that we could consider our paid leave policy? What could we do to augment or supplement that as employees were trying to navigate making sure that we could care for our patients and our residents and be there in their important roles as caregivers, but then also respond to their own personal needs as family members, mothers, fathers, et cetera.

Joanne Hoertz: One of the other obstacles I think that was really challenging to work through is the continued changing of regulations.

Tracy Davis: Yeah, I was going to ask about that.

Joanne Hoertz: And it seemed almost every day or every other day, there’d be some new recommendation. And at times you might get conflicting recommendations between the CDC and the local Department of Health. It was very challenging to kind of keep up with that. I think we did a really good job at keeping up with that. I think using our incident command structure really allowed us to really understand the regulation. We had a couple of different people that could help to read through that and to disseminate what needed to get disseminated, but the constant changing of what are we going to do in aging services in terms of PPE, mask wearing, visitation, testing, here you should test, here you shouldn’t test, and then testing supplies.

That was also very challenging. So those regulations were one piece and actually the entire process around who gets tested, when do they get tested, how do they get tested, was a little bit of a hurdle for us to get through. And we were very fortunate to be able to set up processes with some of our acute care partners so that we as an organization that doesn’t have a lab, for example, could process employees through a contracted arrangement and be able to get that kind of testing resource available.

Kathy Barbour: I think another great thing that we did with the incident command structure was brought in some expertise with our enterprise project management office and ran this very diligently and thoughtfully because of all of these moving pieces that Joanne was talking about. So we had to archive all of the different communications or the regulations and make sure we were on track being that Brooks has many different service lines. As Joanne mentioned, aging services has a whole set of regulations. Our hospital, our inpatient settings have something different. Outpatient has something entirely different too.

And our patients were trying to navigate all of that. Our employees were trying to understand the differences, why certain areas were having to do certain things while others were not required. Another challenge was really interesting and that the incident command team worked through was the staffing ratios, the staffing needs, making sure that we had the coverage while people were out, et cetera, and then making sure that we had the resources dedicated and allocated to be able to handle the fluctuation and change and the needs of the business while things were, per se, more locked down in aging services, but yet our outpatient division had some more availability given the different needs of our patients at those times, we were able to flux back and forth through that, which is pretty creative. And we did an outstanding job in my opinion.

Joanne Hoertz: Very creative. And I think it was extremely outstanding. The ability to really redeploy and cross train staff so that the divisions that needed more resources were able to be supported while other divisions might have a decline in activity was crucial. I think, to get through this. And again, in the very beginning, everything’s very manual. We started with having to do a paper screening and people taking temperatures of employees before they enter a building. And we were able to move to an automated process where people can answer the screening questions on their smartphone and stand in front of a kiosk to get their temperature taken.

That’s a huge innovation and progression. And I think we’re well ahead of many people with that. I know a few people actually have progressed with their technology solutions to be able to streamline something that used to be very, very manpower, labor intensive. And we were hiring external security guards to help us get through that. And then we were able to automate that, but I think being able to redeploy staff and using some technology solutions really helped us to get through some of this crisis.

Tracy Davis: Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit more about some of the innovative stuff that we did during this time. Because I know that we were doing some things that we noticed that other healthcare organizations weren’t doing. So like, Kathy, do you want to talk about like the virtual visits?

Kathy Barbour: Sure. Sure. So as the visitation requirements were put in place to actually stop visitation in our long-term care settings, actually everywhere, and we made the decisions in the hospitals as well, one of the things we quickly wanted to do was mobilize and opportunity for our patients and residents to be able to communicate with loved ones outside of Brooks Rehabilitation. So we were able to work closely with the IT team who really stepped up and helped us create some of these virtual opportunities by using things like iPads and Zoom technology to mobilize a team of redeployed individuals create massive schedules. We established a dedicated hotline and email where loved ones could call and reserve times to make appointments to communicate with their loved ones in these virtual visit sessions. And it meant staff walking over, running over, creating, initiating the Zoom meetings, and making all of that happen so people really were able to feel connected to their loved ones during these very challenging times.

And it became even more so important, as we realized this was not ending anytime soon. Joanne mentioned months and months and months, and it was, and just every day we wanted hotlines and availability for people to be able to stay in touch with their loved one and actually see them via virtual visits, and sessions with them. And there was other ways that we stayed and our physicians were able to do consults and other things using the IT technology that became available. And I’m sure Joanne can get into more detail on that.

Joanne Hoertz: Sure. And I do think, as Kathy said, the connectivity is really the part that I think made a huge difference in how our patients, residents, and family members felt during this time of crisis. Because that connection of someone that visits their family member every day was totally broken. And that’s very difficult for families and it’s difficult for our residents. You know, we would see people starting to decline, and we would see family members declining in the elderly population. So the ability to have some way to have that individual husband see his wife of 50 plus 70 years, that was very important. And I think that made a… It was a huge success for Brooks Rehabilitation.

And you could really see, as people started to open up visitation again, that we were way ahead of the curve in terms of trying to keep people connected and have information. It was very difficult for family members in our long-term care settings, but we were able to help get through that with them. And I think that that just stands for how well as a team people came together, interdisciplinary, all the different departments to help create the brand, the market, the communication out to everyone that came from a very consistent message, and to be able to follow through with months of schedules of virtual visits is absolutely amazing.

I think that technology helped us also to get our COVID unit open. We were challenged in April to be able to provide care for individuals who were COVID positive in the rehabilitation setting. And a team got together identified planning, space requirements, staff requirements, supply requirements, admission processes to have a patient who is COVID positive come into the rehab setting. And that’s again unusual. I don’t believe there were many rehabilitation hospitals that actually created units. I know some were caring for patients out of this is just what happened, but we actually were able to plan, create negative pressure rooms, educate staff on PPE, particularly N95 usage. The clinical staff today, rarely if ever use N95 masks because you generally don’t see an individual and airborne precautions in a rehabilitation hospital.

However, we were able to really get a group together, educate staff, make sure we had enough supply. And I think we’ve served more than 50 individual patients. I know in September we were at about the 30 Mark. And I think now we’re closer to 50 of patients that came into us with COVID-19 and they were positive. So the technology was able to get set up in the room so you did not need to have somebody in the room with the patient for as long, a period of time as you normally would, reducing the staff’s exposure to that patient, but still being able to provide safe care and be able to connect with the patient and see what was happening.

That I think was really phenomenal, the ability to do that. So that team worked extremely hard and was able to get these patients in and discharged. And we’ve had a lot of success. I wouldn’t want to quote a number, but we did not have outbreaks of COVID amongst staff related to having caring for this population. So kudos to the staff and all of the training that went into that and their continued dedication and perseverance at following infection prevention principles.

Tracy Davis: Absolutely. And it’s one other thing that came to mind is the parade that we did at our aging services campus at Bartram, where they still couldn’t see their family, but we had them all put in a, you know, distance and everything like that. But their family was able to drive through with their vehicles and they made signs. And, you know, it was a really nice event. I think it meant a lot to them because at that point it had been months since they had been able to see their family members.

Kathy Barbour: Yeah. We did all sorts of creative ideas to try and keep our patients and residents engaged, our employees engaged. The parade that you just mentioned, we did more than one. And they were very well received where the family members could actually go through in a line and hold up poster boards. And it just meant so much you could tell to the residents and patients, lots of tears and celebrations, and happiness to be able to wave to somebody from a far distance. And we also brought in a very talented singer who actually participated on The Voice and she did an outdoor concert. You could see through the windows that our residents and some of our patients were listening through the window and or through cell phones to hear this beautiful music that was played for them. So all sorts of creative ideas, virtual bingo. I’m trying to think all sorts of things that our activities and recreation therapy teams and therapists did to keep everybody engaged.

Tracy Davis: Yeah. Huge credit to the activities and rec teams. They did a lot.

Joanne Hoertz: The virtual birthday parties, some people that celebrated century marks. They were able to virtually connect. The window visits, I think were huge. The parade, the hallway and virtual bingo, people really were able to find ways to still do things so that we would not end up with residents that had those feelings of isolation. Because we’re already at a point where you’re not living with your family or you’re not living independently, but how do you continue to be able to feel connected and cared for.

Tracy Davis: Right. It hit me really hard when I was out. I was doing the photos for the parade. And obviously, you know, you hear it and it’s sad and it’s terrible that they couldn’t see their family, but it really hit me when I was standing, I remember I was standing in one exact space and families are driving through and they finally saw their family member, and through the window of their car and they start crying and you could just, it just hit me. It really made me get emotional, seeing that moment to where, you know, they just want to get out of that car and go hug them so bad. So it was an important thing.

Joanne Hoertz: One of the other things I think that we did phenomenally well with technology is address some of my high level fears. One was trying to anticipate patients who might be becoming sick or have signs of COVID. And we work in three separate medical record systems. So each division has its own electronic medical record system. And the ability to kind of track who’s running a fever or who has a temperature all of a sudden today would take a lot of time if you were trying to get a high level overview for the entire organization and our data solutions team was able to create dashboards that the senior nurse leaders could look at to instantly identify without having to go through a lot of different clicks here, here, here, here in each system and brought all the patients’ temperatures up because we had to change how often we were taking temperatures for patients to make it every six hours.

And then you could just look at one site and one place in one dashboard across the system who had a temp and who might not have had a temp. So you’re able to respond much quicker than it would take somebody to kind of go through different charts within the EMR to find out where are the sickest patients and who has had a change recently. The second biggest fear that I had was how were we going to possibly maintain the right level of PPE? And as it became apparent that masks needed to be worn everywhere. And then eye protection needed to be added to that level of PPE. And with our COVID-19 unit requiring use of the N95 masks, how would we ensure each division had an adequate supply? And we knew how much we were using. So the data solutions team also was able to build a dashboard that could track supply usage by day and burn rate, so we knew where we stood with our supplies of face masks, of face shields, of N95 masks.

And I can’t tell you how much that meant, because that way we could take at a glance and say, okay, well, we don’t have enough of this here, but we have enough of it at this building. And we were able to move supplies back and forth and kind of make sure we maintained an adequate supply for everyone. And I know that there was a lot of people working on that and our life safety manager at the time also was able to get a lot of resources and supplies from the state to add into our inventory. And we developed a kind of like a surplus contingency plan inventory, but then to be able to have that data managed as to what’s where was really important. And I think that helped us to maintain our great response to COVID and our PPE protocols.

Tracy Davis: I need to have the data solutions team on the podcast because they’re kind of like silent heroes a little bit. It’s like everyone knows that they’re there, but they’re not sure of the depth of the amazing things that they’re doing, like what you just said. And that’s just one example of the crazy amount of things that they’ve done to improve Brooks.

Joanne Hoertz: Definitely agree. They are the unspoken heroes, the silent heroes. They have done a lot of work and made a lot of things much better that people don’t always hear or realize.

Kathy Barbour: Yeah. They have done the automations for the care compass check-in for the employees, as we’re doing the automations for the screening. And then also in aging services, the requirements that Joanne’s alluded to for communications, anytime there was a positive employee or a positive patient, we were required to communicate within 24 hours to family members about that. Those were all manual communications at the beginning of this process where we were spending hours pulling email addresses, writing the communications, getting them out to the right distribution groups. And then here towards the end, we’ve been able to automate that through text messages and alerts with repeatable templates. And it’s just made a world of difference in the efficiency and the amount of manual labor that’s been able to be automated.

Tracy Davis: And I’m sure a lot of the stuff that we’ve had to implement during this will help us throughout even that past the pandemic.

Kathy Barbour: There’s tons of opportunities, and great learnings that I think will continue to live on as a result of things we’ve learned from COVID. You know, we’ve all become more proficient in Zoom, and meetings and running meetings in that way. Another couple of great examples that technology has helped us with our community programs, whether it was in the neuro recovery centers or like in our adaptive sports programs, we’ve been able to do virtual programming for participants to stay engaged. And that allows us to offer these opportunities to more people at greater distances who may not have been able to come in in the future anyway. So some of these great learnings, I do think will continue into the future.

Tracy Davis: Especially as that population is prone to isolation and things like that, and being able to stay connected. I’ve talked to Alice about that and them being able to stay connected has been a huge thing. We’ve uploaded tons of videos especially for peds recreation. So it’s an amazing time that we live in with the technology that we have.

Joanne Hoertz: I do think that Brooks Rehabilitation has really been innovative in responding and what we’ve been able to create so quickly, it totally amazes me. I think, as an organization, there’s a very strong commitment to the patients, our residents, the family members, and our staff. The transparent and clear communications has always been something that’s been out there. Our staff were always very well aware of anything that changed. We really spent a lot of time looking at, I’ll just call it human resources policies, for example, to make sure that we were able to address needs that people have by looking at paid leave balances, and covering if there was a work-related exposure. You know, making sure that we were really attending to what the needs of the individual people were, establishing the Brooks Cares fund so that people were able to access a fund if they had special needs.

And we even set up support groups using technology so that staff could call into a Brooks for Brooks support group and have group sessions on how do you cope? And what is it that might be causing distress to you? Kind of like a group counseling session, which I think was really important to offer. That’s not something that you see many people doing.

Tracy Davis: Sure.

Kathy Barbour: Our chaplains and support services also offered prayer and support groups for everyone whether it be an employee, patients, or family members. We did that daily for quite some time as well.

Joanne Hoertz: So I also think that the organization has done a fabulous job in putting their employees first. And we were able to keep people employed. We did not have to furlough anyone. We redeployed staff, cross trained staff, gave staff new skills. It wasn’t uncommon to see individuals who would work maybe in information technology or human resources doing some of this manual screening. We were able to use different individuals from our outpatient division to help support more of the one-to-one activities that needed to get done, and the virtual visits. Being able to ensure people continue to be employed and not furloughing anybody, not doing layoffs, I think is pretty phenomenal. You hear very few organizations that were able to accomplish that in this pandemic.

Tracy Davis: Absolutely.

Kathy Barbour: Yeah, and our corporate and shared services teams as well, early on before the automations were in place, we had folks who were taking temperature checks and screening at the doors who were answering phones, who are running materials back and forth. We have examples of folks working at the PPE stock room. Everyone really did an outstanding job of pitching in and doing whatever was needed to make sure that Brooks was taking care of everything that we needed to during these very challenging times.

Tracy Davis: Yeah. And it was tough for a lot of people. I know we had, you know, in our department over here, which was kind of the hub for the inpatient virtual visits, we had people with doctorates in physical therapy running …, because they’re all patient clinic was closed. So, I think that is really, like what you said, it’s amazing that Brooks was able to do a lot of that stuff instead of having to furlough anybody. It’s a big accomplishment throughout the year. Well, what are some things that we learned that is going to help us in the future?

Joanne Hoertz: Well, one thing I would say that we learned as within each division, people really learned how to work even better as a team, if that’s possible. For example, in aging, we are still doing weekly testing of staff and that is a huge undertaking to not have any additional resources, but to have testing accomplished every week is taking some kind of resources off of the units or off of a management team to help process employees through testing, and that’s significant. To do this without adding additional expense has been phenomenal.

So I think that they’ve worked even better as a team than I’ve ever seen before. And I think that our ability to quickly and agilely move to create a dashboard of what we need, I think we’ll be able to continue to do that in the future. And I think that was a huge accomplishment. I think one of the lessons learned would be to really jump on our use of technology and use data solutions to help solve a problem even earlier. I think the ability to kind of get that PPE inventory in one place is a lesson learned. If we could have gotten that done quicker, that would have probably been one thing we could have done a little bit faster.

Tracy Davis: Hopefully I don’t have to film any more PPE videos.

Joanne Hoertz: Exactly. Wasn’t that fun?

Tracy Davis: Hopefully we got all those done.

Joanne Hoertz: I think, another lesson learned is to have people that are ready to go with video educational training. That was something that was new, but really we should have probably been planning more video learning for things prior to this. It was kind of like we’re under the gun. Okay, you’re going to do that training. You’re going to demonstrate that PPE use.

Tracy Davis: Right. Yeah. I now know what donning and doffing is. I know all kinds of things about infection control and PPE.

Kathy Barbour: You’re almost clinical.

Tracy Davis: I know.

Joanne Hoertz: Almost clinical. Hey.

Kathy Barbour: Yeah.

Joanne Hoertz: Come on over.

Kathy Barbour: Yeah.

Tracy Davis: No thanks.

Kathy Barbour: I would add, adding everything together in one place for our employees, whether it was the education or the archive of communication was something we very quickly pulled together. And I think will be a staple moving forward for issues and communications during times of pandemics or crisis on the internet. We did execute something for a first for us, which was the virtual town halls. We did, I think were five virtual town halls that was pulled together in a very unique way where typically our leaders would go out and about to all of our different locations and hold face-to-face sessions. We didn’t have that time or that luxury nor the availability with the spatial distance requirements nowadays.

So to be able to do that is something I think we did very well and that we will probably continue to do in the future. That way all employees can hear the same message and have their opportunity to get their questions answered at the same time, the speed and sense of urgency. We also pulled our management team together more frequently than we have in the past, whereas in the past we might’ve alternated our leaders versus our managers, but really having everyone hear the same message together, more communication than less is something we learned pretty quickly on in the process. And I think that will live on in the future.

Joanne Hoertz: I agree. I agree.

Tracy Davis: So final overall thoughts about this year. Here we are in early to mid December. It’s been a crazy year as we’ve talked about throughout the whole podcast, but any final thoughts on this year?

Joanne Hoertz: I do have one other significant accomplishment that we didn’t mention earlier, the whole ability for the workforce to go remote with something that happened quickly, very quickly. And it’s truly amazing that our IT departments were able to make this happen. I mean, there was no way that our system could handle the remote access of so many people at one time and within a week, I don’t know the exact numbers, but the ability they had to get people set up at home to do their work was really, really amazing. I think we went to probably almost a hundred percent of corporate staff working at home and the stress on the information systems was significant. So Ken and his team were really significant in getting that achieved, and getting that set up quickly, really quickly.

Tracy Davis: Yeah. And there’s going to be tons of stories throughout the whole system that we’re not going to say here, but just so everyone knows thank yous for what you did.

Kathy Barbour: Yes. Thank you.

Joanne Hoertz: Yes.

Tracy Davis: Because there’s going to be a million…

Joanne Hoertz: Lots of things I’m sure we didn’t recall.

Tracy Davis: Oh my gosh. Yeah. I can’t even imagine all the stories.

Kathy Barbour: The way that we wanted to thank our employees for coming together and continuing, because it’s not over yet. We’re still in the midst of this, while it’s not the same as it was in March and April and May. It has been a very long 2020, and we’re going to continue to celebrate our 50th anniversary into the next year to give our employees and the community an opportunity to recognize that. And I think it’s just been a very challenging year, but we’ve learned so much and we really did come together as a team. I think it’s been absolutely amazing to see the Zoom meetings. Some just focused on fun ways to get together, whether it’s choosing a silly Zoom background or a famous hat party, or we’ve celebrated baby showers and birthdays, all sorts of things. And so kudos to the workforce for continuing to stay engaged and to recognize each other and going above and beyond.

Tracy Davis: Absolutely.

Joanne Hoertz: Yes, I would echo Kathy’s thank you to all the staff and all the hard work that people have persevered through in 2020. It has been quite a challenging year. I think we’ve really kind of risen to the occasion and have been able to do much more than anyone ever thinks that you can really do. I think that everybody has been pushed and we really appreciate all the extra effort that staff have all put out and come together to work to take care of our patients and ensure that patients continue to get excellent quality care.

Tracy Davis: Great. Well, thank you guys for coming on.

Kathy Barbour: Thank you for having us.

Joanne Hoertz: Thank you.

Tracy Davis: Appreciate it.


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