By Kate Meyers, California Health Care Foundation, March 26, 2020
Health care organizations in California and around the US are working incredibly hard to prepare for or respond to a surge of patients suffering from symptoms related to COVID-19. Appropriately, preparation has focused on trying to ensure adequate numbers of health care professionals and sufficient supplies and equipment in the right places at the right times as the demand grows.
That focus on numbers and logistics is essential. Also important but perhaps less widely acknowledged is the need to prepare our clinical workforce for the types of circumstances found in Washington and Italy and now emerging in New York, California, and other hot spots we read about every day. Clinicians and staff — in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, and beyond — face the prospect of caring for increasing numbers of very sick people, some of whom will not recover. Talking with these patients and their loved ones with compassion and clarity about what is happening, what to expect, and what their options are is extremely important. To many clinicians, it is a daunting prospect.
Support is available: VitalTalk, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping every clinician develop communication skills for serious illness, has created “COVID-Ready Communication Skills,” a customized, practical, specific set of tips and scripts for all clinicians caring for patients caught up in the COVID-19 crisis. CHCF and VitalTalk encourage the health care community to share these resources far and wide. Printable versions in multiple language are available online.