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Transforming COVID Patient Care: A PRC Partner Spotlight

March 17, 2021

During COVID-19, hospitals and health systems around the world have had to find ways to provide excellent care while ensuring the safety of patients and their medical staff. The steps taken by hospital leadership to manage COVID-19 exemplify PRC’s core value of innovation, and we’re proud to support our partner organizations as they continue to demonstrate courage and servant leadership during the pandemic. Sparrow Hospital is among our partners that we’ve seen lead such innovation, adopting a COVID-19 visitation policy that has transformed the COVID patient’s hospital experience.

Prior to implementation, the Lansing, Michigan, hospital had plenty of PPE to administer care to patients who tested positive for COVID-19. However, the nature of the virus meant that care still came with its limitations; namely, leadership pointed to the quarantining of patients, which while necessary, doubled as a source of isolation that’s normally associated with punishment (i.e., prisoners entering solitary confinement, parents sending kids to timeout, etc.). Some speculated the isolation aspect of quarantine may create hesitation among COVID-positive individuals to seek the necessary care, so Sparrow knew something had to change.

With the extra PPE available, leadership realized they could use their resources to mitigate the patient isolation and shift the paradigm in Sparrow Hospital’s COVID-19 management by allowing families to have hour-long visitations with patients.

The new visitation policy was significant for the hospital in multiple ways. In addition to improving the patient experience, family visitations lifted a huge burden off caregivers within Sparrow. Previously, nurses were typically COVID patients’ only source of human contact, meaning their communication carried an extra weight in the patient’s hospital stay. This proved mentally taxing on Sparrow’s care team, especially during times when they were the final people a patient would see before death. Allowing families to be there and console their hospitalized loved ones meant nurses no longer needed to support COVID patients alone, helping Sparrow reduce staff burnout during a time when they’re needed the most.

For families, being able to visit patients provided much-needed emotional relief during the pandemic. Leaders at Sparrow recounted patient visitations by describing abundant displays of support and flowing tears of joy, while giving families a chance to understand what their hospitalized family member was facing. Physicians also noted how the visitation policy removed the potential finality of COVID hospital stays, citing the previous need for conversations with families concerning the possibility of a patient’s death and being unable to see that patient upon admission. Even during times when a patient didn’t make it, with the visitation policy, grieving families expressed their gratitude for having an opportunity to see their family member one last time, find a sense of closure, and, in some cases, let patients spend their final moments in the company of loved ones.

Sparrow Hospital’s family visitation policy was met with widespread acclaim and national media coverage. The fact that the hospital was able keep patients, families, and medical staff safe during visitations also proved the feasibility of breaking down the isolation of COVID-19 hospital treatment.

If you’re interested in implementing COVID visitations, leadership at Sparrow advises the following tips and considerations for hospitals:

  • Utilize the volunteers and staff you have
  • There will be push-back from staff; not everyone will be on board immediately
  • Communication among staff is key to assure your team of the safety and feasibility of COVID visitations
  • Encourage your team with the reminder of how COVID visitations reduce patient isolation
  • Implement good scheduling and keep procedures as straightforward and simple as possible
  • Remind all involved that the gratitude and relief from staff and patients will be limitless

At the end of the day, the visitations speak to the core of healthcare’s purpose—working in the best interest of patients—so Sparrow encourages hospitals to join them in transforming the patient care landscape amid COVID-19.

Sources and Further Reading:
Hospital allows family members to visit patients with COVID-19 in person

‘It’s the right thing to do’: Sparrow allowing visitors for COVID-19 patients