By David Kincade, ABOC, FNAO, Training Manager, Clarkson Eyecare
Here we go! It is time to open your practice back up for “normal” business. Let us look at what is necessary to be safe and responsible in this new, uncharted land ahead.
Everybody knows about COVID-19 and Coronavirus, right?
Sure, you have heard all about what you are supposed to do, and what you are not supposed to do. You have followed the news and briefings, as well as the latest newsletters from all the professional organizations. You have a full shopping cart of information. So much information in fact, that you cannot even fit one package of toilet paper in your cart! That is too much information. Some of it is conflicting.
How do we know which recommendations to follow? Shouldn’t we just ask our Facebook friends? Let me share how we put our restart together.
Make the choice
Start by deciding which authority or short list of authorities you will use for your information bank. We used the American Optometric Association (AOA), the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as our primary sources of information about infection control in general, COVID-19 specifically, and how it relates to our practices.
When it came to the dispensary, we decided to use information from the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) for guidance on disinfection of the dispensary, adjustments and dispensing, and Luxottica for frame disinfection. We were able to ignore a cacophony of recommendations that echoed those we chose and focus our efforts on a plan. You might choose different expert sources. That is fine. Just keep your sources to a minimum. You can treat the rest as just noise. The point is to keep focused.
Make the plan
Divide the work. Designate an expert from your practice for each area of your plan. They do not have to be knowledgeable about the subject now. Do not be afraid to designate someone with less experience to one of these expert areas. They can learn it quickly, and with new, fresh eyes. That brings perspective to the team.
Here are the areas you need to cover:
Employees and Patients: Safety and Screening.
Facility operating protocols: Clinical guidelines and retail space issues.
PPE Requirements and hygiene: Personal and equipment shielding, inventory and procurement.
Cleaning and disinfection protocols: Sanitation timetables and checklists. Equipment and supplies.
Communications: I saved the most important for last. Do this first. Both with your patients and staff. Do it daily, and stay upbeat, but matter of fact. Do not omit tough truths. This step happens from the top down and will help build your team.
Train the plan
Break the plan into pieces, and make sure everybody understands each piece. In smaller practices, that can be meetings with presentations by each expert on their part of the plan. Make sure to record each attendee’s name and have them sign an attestation that they understand the material.
In a larger organization, online training, traceable with attestations are the way to go. If your company has a Learning Management System (LMS), or HR Compliance Training site, host your COVID-19 training there. This will track the users who have taken the training.
Make the decision
You have written the plan, trained the plan, now execute the plan. In fact, do not wait. Start before the plan is finished. Parts of the plan like Employee Screenings have to be implemented immediately. In addition, we know PPE is hard to find, and hand sanitizer is as rare as thumbs on a horse, so make someone responsible for shopping, every day, right away.
Designate an Infection Control Officer. The office ICO has the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of the plan. Empower the ICO to check compliance in all phases of the office.
Above all, remember to communicate compassionately. We may not be all in the same boat, but all of our boats are in the same storm. We can ride it out and learn together. Stay tuned for more in depth and detailed examples of reopening processes and procedures in upcoming articles.Get information about policies and procedures for infection control in your office with our CE, The Hygienic Optician, at 2020mag.com/ce. The course is free, courtesy of an educational grant from the McGee group.