From the emergency room to primary care practices, healthcare workers often notice a spike in patient visits when winter—and the holidays—arrive. These surges occur for various reasons. For example, emergency room visits can increase because people with known conditions are more likely to cheat their doctor’s orders around the holidays. Behavioral patterns can also lead to more patient visits; for example, the holidays can induce stress that triggers or exacerbates health problems. Also, many people travel and try new activities that result in injuries or partake in binge drinking, leading to accidents.
At the same time, many healthcare employees hope to take time off during the holiday season. The combination of understaffing and the increase in daily visits can create stress and disorganization at your practice or clinic, no matter how well you prepare. But you can’t manage the busy season with your current resources; you do have options. Consider bringing in temporary staff members or outsourcing management and administrative tasks.
For Nursing Staff
Experienced and well-trained nurses are an essential part of any clinic or private practice. When the number of visitors increases during the upcoming holiday season, your on-call nurses probably won’t be able to keep up with the demand. Your situation could be even more urgent if one or more of your nurses ask to take some time off during the holidays or get sick with the flu.
In some cases, hiring temporary supplemental nurses is a must. When working with temporary or travel nurses, be sure to include a short period before the rush to test and train your new staff, ensuring they’ll know what to do when the time comes.
Administrative tasks, while mundane and time-consuming, are critical to your clinic’s functioning. Implementing NextGen EMR software to automate some of them is a significant first step, but it doesn’t take the burden off of your employees to run them in. If you notice that your administrative team is behind schedule or stays long hours to finish their tasks, consider staff augmentation for NextGen solutions. A NextGen consulting company can send administrative workers with EMR experience for short-term or long-term help. They’ll not only fill in to get the work done, but they’ll also help train your existing staff to optimize their use of NextGen software.
This holiday season will, no doubt, be different than previous years, thanks to COVID-19. One of the necessary accommodations to keep your staff and patients safe is to double-down on sanitization by hiring cleaning staff.
As patient visits—both scheduled and urgent—increase, so will the need for a quicker and more efficient cleaning plan. That may include temporarily hiring cleaning staff to catch up with the holiday rush. Otherwise, you risk overworking your current team, forcing them to underperform in other areas of their work, and sharply increasing the risk of infection among staff and patients.
For Time and Appointment Management
Just because you see a higher number of patients each day, that doesn’t mean your waiting room has to overflow with patients. In addition to lowering patient satisfaction, a crowded wait room can also increase the risk of infection. To avoid this, communicate with your patients beforehand and inform them that they need to book an appointment before they show up. You should also include an option for semi-emergency visits, where patients book an appointment within a few hours instead of days or weeks.
To accomplish this, you can augment your administrative staff, as previously mentioned. Or, if you have the time to prepare before the holiday rush, you can use your EMR software to analyze patient traffic data and identify inefficiencies that lead to longer waiting times.
An increase in work hours and patients can be exhausting and overwhelming for you and your staff, but that doesn’t mean you and your employees can’t enjoy the holiday season.
After preparing for the busy days with your team, software, and supplies, make sure the holiday spirit is present in your clinic by setting aside time to decorate the waiting area or arrange a staff dinner after hours or during the weekend. While seemingly small, these gestures can make your staff—both temporary and permanent—feel appreciated for the work they do and allow them to unwind before the next big day.