05 May Neighborhood Health Center Pivots To Support Staff During COVID-19 Crisis
Neighborhood Health Center shares two ways it has gotten creative to take care of staff during COVID-19
Cloth Masks With a Thank You Note:
Once the CDC began to suggest that everyone should wear cloth masks, Neighborhood Health Center‘s leadership team began talking about the impact on staff. Not only professionally, in clinic, but personally as well. We knew that using cloth masks over N95s would allow us to extend their life which would help reduce our PPE burn rate too. Chief Dental Officer Jonathan Hall shared that his wife is a member of a quilting group and that they might be willing to make cloth masks for us.
CEO Jeri Weeks wanted to expand the idea to ask if other staff members and family would be interested. We decided that each staff member would need at least 2 masks so they always have one clean mask. We’ve been doing a daily communication to staff since March 16 asking for staff volunteers to make masks. Several volunteered either for themselves or a family member. Over the next week, over 320 masks were made by volunteers and delivered to our administrative offices. We wanted the distribution of the masks to be encouraging to staff so we packaged 2 masks in a small paper sack with a thank you message, photo instructions on how to put the mask on, and a note about who made the masks.
Dr. Hall posed for pictures to create the step-by-step instructions on how to don the masks. Staff really were excited to receive them.
Opening a Day Camp for Children of Staff:
Faced with the prospect of several staff members unable to come to work due to school and day care closures in response to Gov. Brown’s social distancing mandate, CEO Jeri Weeks proposed the opening of a temporary childcare facility for staff with urgent need. Melissa Nystrom, Director of Risk, worked with our insurance carrier and state agencies to determine that NHC could operate a temporary childcare facility to support needs of health care staff.
Shelly Santa Cruz, Quality Improvement Specialist at NHC, who loves children and was a nanny in a past life, immediately volunteered to help put a plan together for the temporary childcare.
As dental services were reduced to emergent care only the day care provided an opportunity to keep dental staff employed. Many dental assistants offered to work in the day care which allowed Shelly to develop a work schedule for several dental assistants to spend half days in the “day camp” as we’ve come to call it. We were also fortunate enough that one dental assistant, Alexsia Lozano, is also a certified teacher. Alexsia set up a classroom where she works with school-aged children on their class work each day, which allows children to get their work done and parents to spend evenings on family time rather than homework.
Making sure to meet the necessary requirements for a temporary childcare facility with proper cleaning and sanitizing and adhering to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the NHC Day Camp was up and running within 5 days. The camp hosts anywhere from 5 to 9 children a day, depending on their parent’s work schedules.
Patience Rynerson, a parent of twins attending the day camp and a Referral Coordinator for NHC, has found the day camp to be real blessing. “The NHC Day Camp has saved so many of us. By us, I mean underserved patients, single moms, sole providers, everyone who has been in a position where they were in need of care when it seems unaffordable and inaccessible, means to feed their family, child care to maintain their careers and contribute to the communities we live in” she said. “A lot of us working at NHC aren’t just employees, we are patients, and are very much the population that we serve with the same everyday barriers. I have honestly asked myself, ‘what benefit could NHC reap from providing in house childcare?’… And, I do not see one, instead I see an organization that became creative and implemented a plan to keep everyone working, a plan was made to be sure there is adequate staff to continue providing the same level of excellent care for our patients most in need all while keeping staff’s children well cared for. I am seriously proud to be part of this organization, and in times like these, NHC shows what they truly stand for—communities and care. I don’t know who needs to be thanked for making this miracle happen, but I hope they know how genuinely amazing this is, and that it has not gone unnoticed.”