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HPI connects with Joe Savoie, Director of Imaging at Keck Medicine of USC and Emily Broussard, Director of Radiology, Lafayette General Health to reflect on their respective challenges in the immediate wake of COVID-19, and throughout the pandemic to-date.
Joe Savoie had recently moved across country to take a on a new role with new responsibilities, at a new hospital.
I was focused on learning processes, learning key players, and still really in the process of developing relationships with all the different key stakeholders for normal advanced imaging and image guided procedural areas. (Enter COVID-19) It really was an interesting challenge in that a lot of very important decisions needed to happen in a very quick fashion and not having all those connections pre-established was a challenge. I will say that I’ve never developed connections and relationships and learned processes faster in my career.
Joe shares insight around shutting down.
I think shutting it all down initially was driven off of state and municipal guidance to discontinue routine non-urgent or emergency services in order to preserve capacity for a surge that we thought was coming. Looking in the rear-view mirror, knowing what I know now from PPE perspective, the ability to care for patients with COVID plus those without, in a safe and effective way, that is also safe for the staff, I do think we could have maintained some semblance of normal operations, even as the COVID surge was coming. As we got more comfortable with being able to continue providing routine care, we turned back on all of our routine, non-urgent services. As a quaternary referral center in the region and nationally, we continued to take high-end acute referrals into the facility, which we committed to do throughout. And we still continued with our academic and teaching mission, still training medical students, residents, and fellows, and pretty much all of our major clinical areas, which is part of the DNA of what USC Keck medicine is.
Joe continues, highlighting the intrinsic value of a present leader in times of crisis.
I really did try to be as present and as available as I could possibly be with my clinical teams. I will say, as a non-technologist leader, finding ways to be supportive and to show them that I’m helping in ways that are valuable was an interesting challenge. I will also say that regular concise and methodic communication was also a huge value to my team.
At USC we had a lot of great work happening in our sourcing and materials teams. We never got to a point to where we were without important PPE supply. We have a 4D lab that lives inside radiology, so we produced thousands of 3D printed N-95 masks, face shields, ventilator components, and a variety of other things that I think really showed the creativity and innovation of the ancillary operations within Keck Medicine. Ramping back up, and handling the pent-up demand, has been a challenge. We’re scaling our operations and extending outpatient availability hours, extending staff schedules, and really starting to think ahead and onboard new services that have been part of our strategy, pre COVID.
Joe just hit his one-year anniversary at USC; a long one and productive journey so far. He shares his two key learnings with HPI:
- I under-appreciated the importance of clear and methodic external communication prior to the pandemic. Setting expectations from all of our referral sources, communicating what imaging services will look like as we’re going through this process. And further, as we’re ramping down, what availability and services will be available and how to appropriately navigate both our referring clinicians and patients to access those services in an efficient way.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of wellness checks with frontline staff. Healthcare workers are innately doers and they want to get the job done. They want to take care of our patients and my team did that consistently throughout this whole process. I tried very hard not to under-appreciate that there’s a bunch of other stuff going on mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and they need support too. I focused on not missing those cues. That’ was critical.
Emily Broussard, Director of Radiology at Lafayette General Health had more than just a pandemic to work through in 2020. Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Louisiana was hit with a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Laura. Emily walks us through the chaos and how her hospital leadership showed their strength.
I do really feel like, as a system, because we’ve gone through these iterations of learnings, we really are stronger. I think that our leadership team, all the way from our president of the system to our staff employees, has connected over these crises. We have a new normal, and because of that, we’ve been able to learn from each other and be better because of each other.
Emily continues, sharing how Lafayette General put a true emphasis on communication that carried their system and teams through both of these crises, making sure they were keeping their patients, staff and community safe as a number one priority.
I think that our biggest learning was making sure that we communicate in a very concise way, ensuring that every single employee has access to the information. There was so much information coming at and the rate at which the information changed was very, very overwhelming for our employees. We made sure that we were overly communicating and simplifying the message so that everybody understood what was happening, and what we were doing to address it. We will continue to apply this as a best practice for any type of emergency going forward.
From training staff for the designated COVID-units to implementing rigorous new processes for cleaning equipment in between patients (especially portable units!), Emily also shares her two key learnings, highlighting again that Lafayette General Hospital is stronger today.
- The biggest thing is to over-communicate. Make sure that your message is as simple as possible, you communicate it over and over, and over again, and that you get the message to the right people – everyone that’s involved. Because from a staff member perspective, one of the most frustrating things is walking into a situation where you don’t have all of the information to make an educated decision on how to handle something.
- Giving each other a little bit of patience, a little bit of grace, goes a really long way. Emotions are high, this is difficult to navigate through. But if we just remember that as a healthcare provider, and as people that are working as a department, we’re just one human caring for another. If we keep that in mind, we can overcome a lot of barriers, a lot of challenges and make sure we are giving the emotional and mental support to our staff. If they feel supported, then they will in turn give really excellent care to the patients.
As healthcare providers, this is what we’re here to do. We’re here to take care of our patients and make sure they have what they need.
So simple yet so profound.
Thank you both, and all of our frontline workers, for continuing to profoundly impact healthcare.