How Ochsner Health achieved zero COVID-19 deaths among nurses: Tracey Moffatt, CNO

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New Orleans-based Ochsner Health hasn't reported any COVID-19 deaths for its nursing staff across the entire system. 

In March, Becker's highlighted results from an investigative report by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News that found nurses make up the highest percentage of known U.S. healthcare staff deaths attributed to COVID-19. After seeing the report, Tracey Moffatt, BSN, RN, chief nursing officer at Ochsner, reached out to Becker's, knowing Ochsner's outcomes were remarkable compared to the rest of the country.

With New Orleans a COVID-19 hot spot early on, the 40-hospital system worked overtime to ensure its nurses were safe.

Infection rate among Ochsner nurses

Systemwide, Ochsner Health has just over 7,000 nurses, Ms. Moffatt said. Of those nurses, about 900 have had COVID-19 at some point, though it's unclear how many infections were contracted in the community. In the initial days of the pandemic, if an employee was potentially exposed to COVID-19, they were tested, and, while waiting for the results, put on paid leave. Employees now use their earned paid leave if affected by COVID-19, said Ms. Moffatt, adding that Ochsner doesn't want to have a loss of income associated with safety precautions. The system also provided staff guidelines for what symptoms to watch for and what precautions to take at home if infected with COVID-19. 

Systemwide safety protocols  

Infection control preventionists, leaders and educators all worked with nursing staff to develop different safety education videos. For example, the organization filmed multiple videos regarding proper gown donning and doffing procedures as the scientific community continuously learned more about COVID-19. Ochsner also formed specific stations for staff to safely don and doff when preparing to enter a COVID-19 patient's room. Later, the organization implemented a new masking system, including a capper helmet for nurses. Everytime new equipment was introduced, a nursing-specific picture or video was taken and disseminated across the system. Pictures, videos and CDC guidelines were sent to each employee's email, while also being posted to sites that could be accessed at any time.  

Promoting nurse well-being

Ochsner has quiet rooms on campus for employees when they need a space to be contemplative. Established a few years ago through philanthropy funds, the rooms are outfitted with one or two recliners, a computer and scented oils. Some even have little river rocks and books of poetry, Ms. Moffatt said. Nurses can access the quiet rooms at any time, and there's only one rule: no talking. 

Other resources include nurse mentors available to partner with nurses who want someone to talk to. The system has created a lot of spaces where people can meet with leaders or professionals and talk about what they're going through. The system also provided free meals for many months during the pandemic and set up a child care service for working parents. 

Ochsner leadership wanted to recognize the stress and pain the pandemic has caused, not only at work, but also at home. The system implemented COVID-19 pay for those working on dedicated COVID-19 units in acknowledgment of the physical hardship of being in a capper, gown, gloves or bunny suits all day, Ms. Moffatt said.

Nursing turnover, retention rates

Ochsner's nurse turnover rates have increased over the past year, said Ms. Moffatt, citing several potential reasons. There were thousands of opportunities for nurses to earn higher pay if they were willing to travel or switch to big agencies, Ms. Moffatt said. The system saw a lot of full-time nurses switch to part-time because of the pandemic. Many nurses in their late 50s retired early, citing fear, exhaustion or burnout. However, Ms. Moffatt said Ochsner is starting to see some of the nurses who left for travel assignments come back. 

The bottom line

Continuous communication is essential, Ms. Moffatt concluded. When personal protective equipment was running low, supply chain leaders tapped into every relationship they had to procure all necessary gear for staff. The system monitored supply levels twice a day for a systemwide report and, because of this, never ran out.  

"I am so proud to be part of this organization," Ms. Moffatt concluded. "We are so fortunate."

 

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