How health systems can care for front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

With the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our communities and across the United States, it's clear these are unprecedented times.

As the chief people officer at Providence, I believe it’s in these extraordinary moments when we must step up as leaders and do even more than usual to reinforce our commitment to front-line health care workers. To this end, leadership across our family of organizations created a set of principles to frame our actions and serve our 120,000 caregivers.

Keep front-line caregivers safe. Understanding uncertainty about the disease and widespread shortages in critical personal protective equipment, we created a movement overnight called the 100 million mask challenge. Days away from running out of PPE in hospitals across our system, eager volunteers banded together and started sewing masks and making face shields. Within days, the scale had surpassed our own system's immediate needs, so we asked the American Hospital Association to help manage it for systems across the United States.

With these measures in place, we are now able to move toward the practice of "universal masking." Starting with our hardest-hit communities, we will soon be able to supply medical-grade masks to every caregiver who works in a clinical setting. A few additional steps include postponing elective surgeries so we can redistribute PPE to other patient-care areas, offering virtual care, monitoring patients at home using telehealth, restricting visitors, following CDC guidelines for reuse and extended use of PPE, and reprocessing masks, following FDA guidelines, to continue to replenish our supply levels.

Keep caregivers secure. The second principle was to provide a safety net for those who need it most. With the incredible focus on COVID-19, many other services typically provided by health systems have been paused or stopped, leaving caregivers without consistent work. Our hope is to offer peace of mind through this challenging time by continuing to provide caregivers with a steady paycheck.

While many caregivers continue in their current roles, we have grown an impressive redeployment effort for those who can't. Enabled by a quick skills inventory, we are able to help our caregivers use their current skills in new areas, build new skills to grow adjacent capabilities in high demand and offer personalized career development recommendations using mobile technology.

For those not able to be redeployed immediately, we've made the decision to invest nearly $20 million to guarantee pay for at least six weeks to provide stability, as we plan for and respond to increased volumes and "surges" related to COVID-19.

We've also implemented 80 hours of emergency time-off for each caregiver to use if they have run short of their regular time-off or sick time. This benefit can be used to cover caregivers through an illness or provide a safety net if COVID-19 has created an unforeseen emergency. In addition, we've guaranteed partial income replacement for an extended period of time for those who become ill from COVID-19. Our family of organizations has committed to provide caregivers with 65 percent pay until they can return to work.

Keep healthy caregivers at work. It's important to remember that our caregivers have families too. While they are taking care of us, someone has to care for their families. With schools and nursing homes closed across the country, many families are left juggling work and home. To assist, we're offering all caregivers unlimited low-cost, back-up child or eldercare. If these options don't work, we're also offering $100 reimbursement per day if caregivers are able to find their own caretaker. We're also offering this to our per diem workforce. If our caregivers are able and ready to serve their communities, we want to enable them to deliver their best care.

As this unprecedented public health situation continues to evolve, we are committed to taking the right steps to ensure our caregivers and their families have the resources to weather this crisis.


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