By Jeffrey Ruiz, CHTM

What a week it’s been. Like me, many of you may have been a part of tabletop strategy meetings on how to best handle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. You may have been asked many questions about medical equipment, such as: How many hospital beds, ventilators, monitors do we have? Do we have spare equipment?

How can we obtain rental equipment? What happens if a member of our team gets sick? Can we do only high-risk equipment PMs? Can we do only on-call service requests and no PMs? Can we work at home? So many questions—and at the same time, a feeling we are all up against a clock. Events and updates seem to be changing by the minute.

Many of our brother and sisters abroad are experiencing the full effects of this novel coronavirus. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them as they battle this disease head on. Those not yet affected are able to learn from these events and try to improve on their strategies to meet this challenge. Many of us both here and abroad have handled similar challenges in the past. Consider the emergencies triggered by the recent wildfires in California, Hurricane Katrina, and prior virus pandemics. Our teams helped coordinate backup or spare equipment.

We ensured medical devices would work in the environments they were placed in. We helped identify any potential patient safety risks during these challenges. We even helped on the front lines and with patient evacuations. We are a diverse group with many backgrounds and life experiences that help provide many successful outcomes under even the most challenging circumstances.

Supporting Our Teams

Today, information about the coronavirus is traveling at light speed—faster than ever before. This can make it difficult to discern what is accurate information and what is not. The information overload can also overwhelm us and cause stress for our teams. It’s OK for our people to have feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. It’s also OK for them to express those feelings. With so many actions being implemented to combat this virus, it can be hard for our teams to think clearly. Everyone may need to take a step back, breathe, and listen.

HTM leaders need to recognize this and be there for our people. We need to support them and, more important, hear their concerns. The sheer act of lending an ear goes a long way. Our people may have a lot of questions, about the work environment but also about their personal or family concerns. It is important to have a conduit to share these questions either one-on-one or in a team huddle. The key is to have open lines of communication and dialogue. Those of us in the HTM leadership role need to be there for our respective teams.

Additionally, we have got to be cool. We will all face adversity in managing this crisis. We may be asked to handle responsibilities we may not have experienced before. We may have to work with many resources to collectively find a solution. It may get tough out in the front lines. We will need to stay calm, take a minute to pause, and then focus on the task at hand. In a crisis like this, we will all face difficult questions, but if we continue to focus on patient safety, we can do no wrong.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a hospital-based department, an ISO, a third party, or a manufacturer. We all play a part in the delivery of patient care. We know there are still many unknowns, and we can’t yet predict how this pandemic will play out. Everyone is making huge sacrifices in tackling this crisis. Collectively, we are a strong, talented, and battle-tested team. Each of us is being called to action. Everyone has something to offer.

Yes, we have plans in place that minimize patient safety risk, backup equipment strategies, workflow processes, and managing of resources. But we also need to be there for our patients, our hospitals, our teams, and more importantly, each other. This is what we do!  

Jeffrey Ruiz, CHTM, is technology manager of the biomed department at Holland Hospital in Holland, Mich. Questions and comments can be directed to chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].