Flexibility and resilience were the traits that saw Franciscan Health through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Although the coronavirus still lingers in 2021, the new protocols and advancements put into place last year have given Franciscan Health the footing it needs to continue making strides in taking care of its communities.
When the coronavirus first gained traction, Franciscan Health made adjustments to keep its staff and the public as safe as possible while treating patients. This entailed visitation policy changes, elective and non-urgent surgery delays, cross-training staff to lend a hand where needed, and more. There was also a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), so Franciscan Health personnel had to learn how to conserve and reuse equipment by disinfecting it with ultra-violet light.
Although Franciscan Health had already been working on developing telehealth capabilities, the pandemic compelled the staff to hone in on the project. What otherwise may have taken 10 years to develop and implement, Franciscan Health completed within a year to accommodate for social distancing and quarantines.
One virtual option Franciscan Health began to offer in 2020 was virtual rounds, or telehealth, which allows physicians to collaborate via a video conference call to talk with patients and answer their questions. Telehealth also allowed COVID-positive patients to quarantine at home with equipment to monitor vital signs and keep in contact with doctors. This allowed patients to recover in their homes while still being monitored, freeing up space within the hospitals.
“What we’re seeing is this continuum of care developing. We’re providing care to patients where they need it and when they need it, whether that’s in the hospital, the emergency department, or in their homes,” said Media Relations Specialist Robert Blaszkiewicz.
This continuum of care will help Franciscan Health to continue growing and focusing on what is best for not only its patients, but staff as well. While patients may have the luxury of staying home, healthcare workers knew no such advantage. Despite the risks, Franciscan Health workers continued to come to work ready to find new solutions to new problems and serve with same quality of care as they had in years past.
Fortunately, Blaszkiewicz shared that the efforts and courage of these healthcare heroes did not go unnoticed by the community. Outreach from the community came in the form of food, letters, responder parades, and more. Franciscan Health wanted to share these gifts of encouragement with its staff, which led to the creation of a gratitude wall at each of its hospitals.
“The gratitude walls were something that we came up with because we were getting these notes, letters, drawings from kids that were wonderful, and we wanted to make sure that our staff saw those,” Blaszkiewicz said. “We created these walls where we could post them in a place that when they had a moment, they could go to this wall and see the pictures and read the notes to get recharged and have their spirits uplifted. We greatly appreciate what the community provided to us, and the gratitude walls were a way to display that support that we have from the community.”
Working as a team and receiving recognition from the community helped fuel the staff at Franciscan Health, and with the continued rollout of vaccines, everyone hopes to see an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On April 1, as a system, Franciscan Alliance passed 100,000 doses of the vaccine distributed, which we saw as a milestone,” Blaszkiewicz said. “In 105 days, we delivered those doses and we’re continuing to do it as Indiana expands access. Our aim is to continue to encourage those in the community to get vaccinated because the more people we can vaccinated, the better chance we’ll have to actually defeat this and get back to the normal that we all want to see.”
Other developments at Franciscan Health in 2020 included the opening of Franciscan Beacon Hospital in La Porte, the groundbreaking for the new Franciscan Health Crown Point, and the expansion of the third floor at Franciscan Health Munster.
To learn more about all that Franciscan Health has accomplished, visit https://www.franciscanhealth.org/.