As we know, Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF’s) have a lot to manage during the current pandemic. Ensuring the staff and residents remain healthy has always been at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19. While there are efforts everyone needs to take to prevent the spread of illness, leaders of the facility are in a position to provide direction and establish order in response to the outbreak. This requires coordinating best practices, infection prevention, and implementing healthy business operations. The Centers for Disease Control is continuously updating guidelines for how skilled nursing facilities respond to and plan around COVID-19. But beyond updated guidelines and response planning, leaders should consider strategies to support staff members who have tested positive or have been directly affected by the coronavirus.

Leaders and managers can support their team by focusing on building trust while showing support. A leader’s demonstration of support is an indication that the workplace cares. According to a recent article by Diane Adams in Human Resource Executive, “when an employer cares for workers, employees say they feel included in the organization (95%) and would recommend the organization to a friend (91%).” Responding to a pandemic can elicit intense stress in employees. Therefore, reviewing paid time off policies, implementing flexible scheduling, and having open and honest conversations with your team can make a big difference. Let’s review more ways to help:

      • Create policies and procedures that can be tailored to fit the needs of your staff as the pandemic shifts and changes.
        • During a public health crisis, it is important to remember that increased communication and willingness to implement new policies is essential for organizational and employee health.
        • Develop a contingency plan for staffing shortages.
        • Prepare for a range of possible scenarios and have an adequate emergency preparedness plan to meet the circumstance. Examples of some of the policies you may develop include contract tracing, positive test notification protocols, and contingency plan for delayed or out of stock supplies.
      • Offer resources to help manage stress and coping.
        • Communicate regularly regarding procedures, timelines, and any variables that impact employees (e.g. mandatory point of care testing). Staff may wonder if they will have enough PPE to last or what the company is doing to keep them safe. Leaders should outline a plan that offers clarity around such strategies.
        • Leaders should operate with high levels of compassion, kindness, and encouragement while demonstrating a sense of calm, order and reassurance
        • Connect employees to employee assistance programs (EAP) resources (where available) and community resources that may help them navigate emotional and financial stressors.
        • Balance morale-building efforts with real facts and data.
        • Celebrate successes and overcoming challenges. Recognize individuals with specific feedback on how they contributed to positive outcomes. One great way to do this is with a handwritten note mailed to them at home.
      • Be flexible.
        • Implement flexible sick leave and support policies and practices. Employees should not risk exposing others to the virus because they are afraid of losing their jobs or facing reprimand from their supervisor or coworkers.
        • Leaders should ensure they have updated any leave policies to align with local, state and federal legislation.
        • Communicate clearly and provide in writing the actions to take if symptoms develop and/or when an employee tests positive. Include clear direction on CDC guidance for a symptom-based strategy for return to work
        • Designate a key contact for inquiries regarding leave, benefits, and compensation.
      • Practice self-care and team support
        • Consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. See the situation as an opportunity to learn or build strengths within yourself and your team.
        • Foster a culture of caring for team members. Consider coordinating a meal train, care packages, and touch-base phone calls with employees who become ill
        • Respect staff privacy and ensure anonymity when an employee or employee’s family member is sick

These are challenging and unprecedented times. Encouraging staff to share their concerns and connecting with each staff member one-on-one will offer a sense of workplace community, which will in turn build resiliency within the team.

If you want more information on coping with stress and building resilience for staff members affected by COVID-19:



Blog by Jessica Cairns, RN, RAC-CT, CMAC, Proactive Medical Review

Click here to learn more about Jessica and the rest of the Proactive team.