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It is almost apocalyptic-the tsunamis, hurricanes the likes of which we have never witnessed, devastating earthquakes, forest fires burning hundreds of thousands of acres-and now the looming "bird flu" pandemic. Add to these the gas prices, the economic changes, and one's own personal situations, and "stress" does not even begin to describe the feelings.
Whenever life seems "out of control," I remember the sage words of one coworker: "Trust the process." It was suggested to me at a time that now seems of minor stress (in the grand scheme of things). But while the cards were still playing out and the ups and downs of the events transpired, this chapter in my life led to anxiety. Now, as I look back at how the situation unfolded, I see that the BEST situation was being invisibly crafted-one that led to the BEST outcome.
But another lesson was learned: trust the process, but have one. And the process I am encouraging in this editorial is a strategic process "in case." This may be as simple as having coverage for your department. You probably have that scenario covered if one-or even two-of the staff members are out on vacation or sick (extended or simple illness). However, what about the bigger issues?
* Your whole facility is devastated in a natural (or unnatural) disaster.
* Many staff members are either out sick or taking care of very sick family members because hospital beds are in short supply (the pandemic being prophesized).
* Your facility is at 100% capacity-and beyond-with suboptimal staff (because of anything from nursing shortages to the scenario mentioned in the previous bullet).
There are so many issues to think about from human resources to data resources. Does your case management company have all information electronically? Or do you still have many computerphobic staff who do most/all of the documentation through pen-and-pencil. If electronically, how often is it backed up? If hard copies are used, how are the massive amounts of paper secure and safe when a myriad of possibilities may occur?
Some first steps to think about:
1. Find out if your department has a disaster-preparedness policy and procedure.
2. Find out if the parent facility has one.
3. If one is written, is it from years ago (before you had electronic databases, or before our current experience that disasters can be large).
4. Gather a team together and think about the issues and the solutions. Make a "policy and procedure" that is practical and doable. Make sure that-once the process is determined-all staff members are intimately familiar with it.
5. For human resources: Start cross-training Staff. Be especially serious if a single person has knowledge that is critical, and make sure that-if that person is unavailable-the work will not be at risk.
6. For data resources: Do what you can now to keep data backed up. Meet with your information technology department to see if anything else needs to be done to back up information in your department. If paper charts are used, have the team work on that issue.
7. Keep confidentiality issues in mind.
I am not a disaster-preparedness expert. This editorial does not have the answers. It is just a strong encouragement to look at this issue now and start planning a process. The journal would be grateful if readers submit any tips, processes, ideas, and plans they currently have. As a country, we have learned that we must all be part of a solution-no one agency can do it all. If your department has something to share with other case managers and case management administrators, please send an e-mail (LCMJournal@aol.com) and I will assure a forum for this.
In this New Year, I hope we do not need the processes spoken about today. But if you have a good process, then trust it!! Lippincott's Case Management wishes everyone a wonderful 2006.
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