The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Emphasized the Need for Healthcare Cross-Training

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog bost is the first in a series excerpting our article, “Pandemic Crisis Reveals Need for ‘New Normal’ When It Comes to Cross-Training: An Interview with Trisha Coady, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Clinical Solutions, HealthStream,” by Christie Kerwin, MSN, RN; AVP, Clinical Development, HealthStream.

As healthcare systems and providers across the United States began to prepare for the onslaught of COVID-19 earlier this year, there were many unknowns: How many patients would arrive at doctor’s offices and emergency rooms in those first days and weeks? How quickly would those numbers rise? Would there be enough equipment and supplies?

And perhaps most importantly, would there be enough personnel to support the predicted increases in patient volume in both the early stages and over time? There was no simple answer to that last concern, because so much more was involved than simply moving personnel about like pieces on a chessboard. For example, how do we transition idled operating-room nurses into overflowing critical care units? It was a good idea and those individuals were more than up to the challenge, but they would need specific training—and need it fast.

HealthStream Responded Rapidly with Necessary Nurse Training

HealthStream saw that rising need and responded by rapidly curating and collecting a series of courses to offer its customers. Those included everything from reviews of current guidelines for infection control across various care settings to other frontline needs such as ventilator safety and precautions for airborne pathogens. Courses on best practices for using personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as refresher courses on proper hand hygiene to control and prevent the spread of infection, were understandably popular, as was a course on Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). And stepping away from the clinical side, the course bundles also included modules for back-office functions, such as coding for COVID-19 related care, as well as other administrative topics that would ensure all areas of operation would continue smoothly as staff were pulled in many different directions.

Frontline Clinical Staff Needed Education to Be Prepared for Anything

“For the best chance at positive outcomes, healthcare leaders really needed to ensure their frontline clinical staff had a baseline level of competence,” says Trisha Coady, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Clinical Solutions for HealthStream. “Unfortunately, education and professional development have often been de-prioritized despite being one of the most cost-effective tools an organization has to achieving the quadruple aim.”

However, even healthcare organizations who have robust training in place had to contend with the suddenness of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the fact that a predicted 20 percent of healthcare workers themselves were likely to contract the virus.

“We knew the U.S. was going to have a surge of COVID patients enter our hospitals, and then end up in critical care units. At the same time, many frontline staff would exit the workforce, at least temporarily, due to COVID-related illness. Given our systems have never had to cope with an issue of this scale before, I believe we all wondered how our organizations would handle this very unique challenge. We heard from one hospital leader who mentioned, ‘We had 25 patients come in at once and we were flattened.’ What were they going to do if 200 came in?”

Further complicating matters was the need to either re- or cross-train staff not just in areas like nursing, where a chronic shortage exists nationwide, but also in just about every other area of care. That meant training had to be comprehensive, quick, and effective, Coady says.

The article also includes:

  • HealthStream curricula assembled for rapid retraining needs
  • Cross-training, individualized coursework likely the ‘new normal’
  • Shifting employee development in healthcare
  • Resuscitation training as an ideal candidate for the COVID-19 aware environment
  • Proven benefits of learning and professional development should spur continued engagement
  • Diversified learning strategies to support healthcare readiness
  • The Effect of COVID-19 on the Opioid Crisis


Download the full article, “Pandemic Crisis Reveals Need for ‘New Normal’ When It Comes to Cross-Training: An Interview with Trisha Coady, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Clinical Solutions, HealthStream.”

As our flagship nursing workforce development solution, HealthStream’s jane™ is The World’s First Digital Mentor for Nurses. JaneTM harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create a system that personalizes competency development at scale, quickly identifies risk and opportunity, and improves quality outcomes by focusing on critical thinking. Leveraging decades of research and with over 4 million assessments completed, JaneTM was designed to power lifelong, professional growth of clinical professionals. JaneTM is an important component of HealthStream’s suite of clinical development solutions.

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