Cross Country Healthcare Co-founder, President, and CEO Kevin Clark on COVID-19 Lessons
Recently, Kevin Clark, co-founder and CEO of Cross Country Healthcare, wrote about lessons we can glean from the COVID crisis and how we can incorporate that insight to advance with intention. Here, he identifies five emerging themes and explores how healthcare leaders and professionals can move forward strategically with compassion, innovation, transparency and integrity.
Using the Past to Guide the Future: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is a defining moment for human history, leaving behind substantial pain and loss in its wake in addition to stories of triumph and the strength of the human spirit. Fortunately, the hardest of times usually teach us the most. The global crisis forced a new reality on us personally and professionally; however, these changes taught us to adapt in new innovative ways and gave us lessons to apply in the future. As cases rise in hot spots around the country, it is time for us to look back on the past year and reflect on the knowledge we gained so far in order to pave a smoother road for what could be a very difficult few months ahead.
Here are five lessons I believe we must keep top of mind as we face another wave of surge cases:
1. Embrace science and show compassion for others
Our dedicated scientists and researchers have equipped us with an arsenal of top-notch weapons to combat this virus. Masks are proven to effectively limit the transmission of respiratory droplets that carry the virus that causes COVID-19 (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). Vaccines are readily available to the general public as well as deemed safe, effective and now officially U.S. FDA approved. To date, approximately 180 million Americans are fully vaccinated. We need to continue following the science.
That said, we must fight the virus together, and that requires compassion and understanding. Individuals from all walks of life with different backgrounds and experiences are being asked to put their trust in government and the medical community. Yes, we must embrace the science, but we must also embrace one another and understand all viewpoints.
2. Innovate, adapt and provide value
Embracing science goes together with adopting new technology. Now more than ever, we need to integrate innovation into everyday practices to meet the increasing demand for care. Telemedicine allows more patients, especially in rural areas and in the home, with ailments unrelated to COVID-19, to be seen online without visits into a public office. This new form of online care illustrates that the clinician-patient relationship does not have to suffer because we’re meeting via Zoom. Telemedicine helps to reserve in-person visits for patients in critical need and allows clinicians to provide care to more patients in a more efficient manner.
Additionally, new technology can also help to fulfill staffing needs. At Cross Country Healthcare, we are relentlessly working to streamline and automate our approach to provide carefully screened clinicians to care for as many patients as possible, which we are doing by transforming our digital ecosystem and infrastructure. This will help our clinicians seamlessly fill job vacancies, especially as needs shift regionally. Our community of clinicians remains a beacon of light during these trying times while also remaining steadfast in our commitment to combat COVID-19. We must make it easier and faster for clinicians looking for new opportunities to connect with organizations in need of additional hands.
3. Acknowledge the mental health impact
Forty-two percent of physicians reported feeling burned out last year, according to a report from Medscape. That is an extremely concerning statistic, especially because most doctors enter the medical field because of a deep desire to help others. Right now, they need our help. To aid and address clinician burnout and ensure patients don’t outnumber and overwhelm healthcare organizations, we can provide avenues of support. At Cross Country Healthcare, we provide a licensed clinical social worker to our employees and clinicians so they can have a safe space to express their emotions. We also put a mental health hotline in place for clinicians to have an immediate resource for assistance. Leading this charge is our chief clinical officer, Dr. Hank Drummond, who personally helped coordinate and take many of these calls. Additionally, Hank, alongside our chief nursing officer Liz Cantwell and chief medical officer Mike Skovira, chairs our Clinical Quality Council, which keeps abreast of recent developments and ensures the organization is up to speed on changes in the healthcare environment and more.
Healthcare organizations, including Cross Country Healthcare, need to acknowledge the very real and lasting mental health difficulties brought on by this pandemic and provide thoughtful support to our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals during these difficult times. We will continue to seek out positive mental health outlets and solutions for our clinicians. They have been there for all of us, and we must continue to be there for them.
4. Support care across state lines
A mobile workforce can also aid clinician burnout and fill gaps in care. The pandemic further highlighted the need for national licensure so clinicians can cross state lines to provide care in areas of greater demand. The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows for nurses to practice across state lines and care for as many patients as possible. Currently, 34 states have enacted NLC legislation. As the Delta variant cases continue to spread, we must ensure our clinicians can provide care to COVID-19 hot spots with ease. Cross Country Healthcare continues to advocate for national licensure and aims to help remove barriers for patients to receive quality care.
5. Remaining transparent and practicing with integrity
I believe that the true character of a corporation is shown during times of crisis. At the beginning of the pandemic, we adopted a pricing philosophy that reflects everything we at Cross Country Healthcare stand for: integrity, quality service and compassion. We continue to place our customers and communities first during this crisis. Throughout this ordeal, our priority has remained to get healthcare workers to the bedside of patients in need – to be driven first and foremost by patient outcomes. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation, and our delivery teams are relentless in their process to fill open positions across the country. Ethical practice is a key component to running a business with integrity, and we know that we are doing the right thing for our customers and the patients they serve.
The pandemic has placed pressure on society in unimaginable ways. But we have made significant progress. We must continue to apply the lessons learned during the pandemic into our future practices. When we learn from those lessons, we ensure a future that embraces innovation, integrity and sensible population health.