1. Laskowski-Jones, Linda MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, NEA-BC, FAWM, FAAN

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The world has completely changed and so have we-in record time. The COVID-19 pandemic is not only causing immeasurable tragedy around the globe, but it has also hit the reset button on almost all aspects of daily life. News headlines decry the widespread unpreparedness that threatens lives. Familiar workplace operations and departmental silos are no longer relevant. It's now "all hands on deck." But will we remember the hard lessons after this pain ends, or will we return to our pre-COVID status quo?

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When all is right with the world (in a manner of speaking), it is easy to go about business as usual. Here is what that looks like from an emergency preparedness perspective: Regulatory agency-required drills become another task to check off the organizational "to do" list. Some consider drills disruptive and only grudgingly participate. Drills are intentionally staged to avoid impacting daily operations and involve only subsets of staff in limited areas. Activities proceed along the usual workplace paradigms. Resources miraculously appear and, within hours, the drill ends.


From a financial standpoint, it is tough to make a compelling business case for extra preparedness resources when "what if" scenarios compete with "here and now" needs. Even when they are purchased, equipment and supplies require maintenance, have a defined shelf life, and require storage space. It is all too easy to magically believe that the likelihood of a catastrophe is slim and that we will somehow figure it out if it occurs.


Now is the time for a new reality check and priority-setting. Traditional approaches to emergency preparedness do not severely stress the system or ignite the burning platform that drives change and true innovation. However, this pandemic is doing just that. It is pushing many healthcare organizations to rapidly think and act beyond their usual boundaries-creating innovative telehealth models, redeploying personnel to different settings and functions, abandoning non-value-added work, and connecting with novel supply chains. There has been no shortage of severe pain and disruption, but as in wartime, advancements and successes during a pandemic can forge changes not otherwise possible.


Preparedness planning for pandemics and other large-scale events calls for diverse thinkers who can transcend entrenched mental models, rules, politics, and established supply chains. It requires accountability at every level in what I will term the "disaster chain of survival." It also demands science, global perspectives, partnerships, and agility. It is time to reinvent disaster planning and take it seriously.


Until next time,



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