• 20 March 2020
  • 6 min read

Care home managers – how to manage the threat of Coronavirus

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager
  • 0
  • 2542
"As someone with responsibility for vulnerable residents and having your own staff team, you already know you need to keep the two in balance to keep the service adequately staffed and safe."

How care home managers can balance the needs of our care homes and staff as we face the threat of Coronavirus.

Topics covered in this article

Classic risk management theory

Continue to fulfill your own responsibilities as a care home manager, as normal

Continue your good leadership efforts

What are the major risks to care homes during the Coronavirus outbreak?

Loop back to your training and principles of healthcare governance

Classic risk management theory

This threat seems to have come from nowhere and the impact at a local, national and international level is all being played out in front of us.

As someone with responsibility for vulnerable residents and having your own staff team, you already know you need to keep the two in balance to keep the service adequately staffed and safe.

In regards to this virus and the fear and anxiety that is being reflected in the media, we need to step back and objectively assess the risk our service faces.

Having identified and qualified these risks, we need to then put plans in place to reduce the likelihood of these risks occurring.

It’s classic risk management theory that most management professionals have come across.

Continue to fulfill your own responsibilities as a care home manager, as normal

So let’s break this down a little bit more.

There are the environmental factors that are happening all around us – political decisions nationally and internationally.

There are also updates about how it the virus is spreading across the world.

We need to know these things but we can’t influence them directly.

I’m reminded of the great Stephen Covey, author of theThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

He talked about differentiating your circle of concern (international / government developments) versus your own influence (have you washed your hands again, are you keeping 6 foot distance from people you come across and taking other steps to keep yourself safe, for example as per current guidance.

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I think this model is useful in as much as we need to focus on what we can do, can control, can influence and less on what we can’t.

Fear and anxiety can paralyse us.

Let’s be mindful of the big picture and use the knowledge we already have about infection control, dealing with an outbreak, taking into account the unique characteristics of this virus, then get to work and reduce those risks as much as possible.

If we do it well, we fulfill our responsibilities to our residents and staff whilst also contributing to the national and international effort to limit the spread, so we all stay as safe as possible.

Continue your good leadership efforts

No doubt we are all following the guidance from the government, PM Boris Johnson, department of health etc in regards to managing these risks.

At the same time, we mustn’t abdicate responsibility for safety for our services – we were responsible before the outbreak and we are responsible during it and after it.

The good principles of leadership, creating a clear narrative, clear communication, good problem solving all still apply.

We need to step up our leadership efforts and not shy away from the complexity of the task in hand.

The provision of healthcare was never in a silo, it is a moving target, a complex interdependence of different factors, health needs, social needs, emotional needs, environmental needs etc.

An equilibrium needs to be achieved to run a service well.

For example, if we do isolate all older people in a care home, some are vulnerable to depression, for some if may lead to a physical deterioration – all these factors need to be considered.

What are the major risks to care homes during the Coronavirus outbreak?

In regards to managing some of the principal risks regarding running a residential care service, for me four of the major risks are:

1) Staff off sick

Staff off sick with virus leading to difficulties running a service (need a contingency plan / emergency plan with various options to mitigate these risks)

2) Sick residents

Residents getting sick whilst based in the care setting (management of visitors / staff – risk assessing both, potentially managing poorly residents at service / later transferring to hospital where needed)

3) Staff becoming sick in the care home environment

Staff getting sick from assisting residents who are carrying the virus (use of PPE, outbreak and infection control protocols, risk assessing staff, identifying those at high risk, reducing the risks to an acceptable level.)

4) Staff refusing to work with patients with the virus

Staff refusing to work with those who are suspected of having / or do have the virus. (Clear messaging about reminders of previous training on managing an outbreak, isolation / barrier nursing, correct ppe and infection control protocols plus risk assessments for staff who could be at risk.)

Loop back to your training and principles of healthcare governance

Of course, we need to follow government guidelines, we need to follow the organisations advice as to how we are to do this safely but I maintain that if we are running a service, we need to use our skill and judgement to apply this advice intelligently, proportionately taking into all the needs of the people we provide care for and manage.

You don’t need me to tell you how to apply infection control principles re those 4 risks for example.

You are already a social care / healthcare professional, trained in these matters, with most of you qualified to at least degree level or equivalent (Level 5 in social care).

You have an understanding of infection control outbreaks and how they should be managed.

At the very least, you'll be familiar with principles of sound healthcare governance.

To wrap up then, let's focus on what you can do now and today to reduce the risks around you.

Re-prioritise based on new information and guidance.

We’ve got this.

About the author

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

Liam Palmer is the author of 2 books on raising quality standards in care homes through developing leadership skills. The 2nd is called "Leadership Secrets of Care Home Managers” inspired by several meetings with the Chief Inspector of the regulator, the CQC. Liam has been fortunate to work as a senior manager across many healthcare brands including a large private hospital, a large retirement village and medium to large care homes in the private sector and 3rd sector.

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  • Liam Palmer
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About the author

  • Liam Palmer
    Registered Home Manager

Liam Palmer is the author of 2 books on raising quality standards in care homes through developing leadership skills. The 2nd is called "Leadership Secrets of Care Home Managers” inspired by several meetings with the Chief Inspector of the regulator, the CQC. Liam has been fortunate to work as a senior manager across many healthcare brands including a large private hospital, a large retirement village and medium to large care homes in the private sector and 3rd sector.

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