5 things to know about team social distancing in your hospital

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We have been lucky in California. The population as a whole has taken social distancing very seriously with excellent leadership from Calif. Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. In addition, the expanse of the city and county has resulted in fewer cases than expected, although vigilance in social distancing and increased testing are needed. 

At Children's Hospital Los Angeles, we have also stayed ahead of the curve with early viral PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing, beginning on March 13th, for team members and inpatients. We also recently began antibody testing. This has provided great comfort to staff, patients and families while preserving PPE for those that need it. 

But social distancing is a critical tactic to prevent spread and here are some protocols we have established to keep the environment safe at Children's Hospital Los Angeles: 

Screen and mask: Our daily screening process for all staff, patients and families entering our hospital allows us to reinforce the importance of social distancing. We also have a universal masking policy for individuals in the hospital. Any team member describing or showing coronavirus symptoms is immediately tested in a drive thru — walk thru testing area adjacent to the hospital. 

Communicate social distancing tips: We feel communication is important to give everyone confidence – our clinicians and teams providing care, as well as patients and their families. We have posted signage throughout the hospital and in common areas that asks our staff to do our part. Each day, our command center also provides daily house-wide updates that not only include items related to the emergency measures, team needs and protocols, but also key social distancing reminders. 

Telemedicine: Through work from home options and telemedicine, we have been able to create more passageway space in our corridors and offices, which continues to provide protection to team members and patient families by reducing density. 

Reducing foot traffic: As we look to a future of increasing patient care volumes, we are reaching out to families that might have delayed care for their children and informing them that CHLA is a safe environment for us to care for their child. We are actively planning on how to maintain the safe environment in the perioperative areas, the hospital wards, and our clinics. For example, we recently commenced a drive-thru vaccine clinic that allows our teams to administer vaccines and take vitals of patients at curbside in our circular driveway, a program that has been led by Mona Patel, MD, our vice president of ambulatory operations. We also have rearranged seating in our waiting rooms to enforce proper social distancing, including placing kid-friendly super hero dolls in chairs next to empty chairs to encourage people to sit farther apart. 

Leadership: Our leadership under President and CEO Paul Viviano along with the entire organization is aware of all of these efforts and embraces the importance of social distancing. We emphasize this in all our communications reminding everyone that they must continue to do their part. We feel this new environment of care presents an image of a healthy future for our staff, patients and families. As we plan to move into the new normal, we are excited about integrating many of the changes and lessons this pandemic has taught us.

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