Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a shortage of clinical staff has been a significant problem for health care organizations. UAB Medicine formed a Pandemic Staffing Task Force to address our nursing shortage, and its call for help received a campus-wide response from nurses, faculty, students, and other staff.
Members of the task force recognized that UAB nursing teams were giving 100%, yet the demands that the COVID-19 pandemic placed on the system required still more clinical support for patients. They would need to call on colleagues to work in the inpatient units and in the Emergency Department. As a result, the “Helping Hands” program was launched in December 2020. Jill Stewart, associate vice president for Nursing Quality and Clinical Excellence, says the program was aptly named.
“An extra set of hands is exactly what the nursing teams needed in the effort to care for our patients,” Stewart says. “The response was tremendous, with over 6,000 hours of Helping Hands support provided by members of the community, School of Nursing faculty and students, and other clinical staff during December and January.”
The Right People in the Right Place
Creating and managing logistics to match the expertise of each employee with the needs of specific nursing units was a top priority for the task force. It was challenged to create a process for matching the skill sets and comfort levels of more than 100 employees to 30 nursing units.
“We created a systematic and standardized process that ensures every team member received the same onboarding information,” Stewart says. “It covered the operational knowledge for the unit where they would work. We used a series of surveys, which initially allowed the employees to self-stratify their skill sets, as well as indicate nursing unit and shift preference.”
More Helping Hands
As the Helping Hands project gained momentum, a group of UAB School of Nursing faculty and students also expressed an interest in the redeployment effort.
“The first student group began helping us in mid-December, working alongside UAB School of Nursing faculty on various units and shifts through their holiday breaks,” Stewart says. “The essence of our partnership with the UAB School of Nursing has shined brightly during some of the darkest moments of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Stewart says the task force and Helping Hands effort required fast-paced, around-the-clock work from everyone involved. She describes the work, opportunities, and response by the Helping Hands as “extraordinary.”
“The display of nursing camaraderie across the enterprise has been outstanding,” Stewart says. “We are in awe of the positive attitude in all of those who willingly served as Helping Hands. We sent out a call for help, and the instant response was, ‘I’m here to help. I’m here to serve. What can I do?’”
Stewart emphasizes her appreciation for everyone involved.
“I would like to extend a tremendous thank you to all the task force members and the Helping Hands,” she says. “The work of these groups is what makes UAB Medicine exceptional.”
Source: UAB Medicine Marketing & Communications