Pediatricians’ Witty Video Explains New Office Procedures
As I listen to stories about how pediatric practices are coping with the havoc caused by COVID-19, I am deeply moved by the caring and creativity pediatricians and their staffs are demonstrating daily. Understandably, parents and other caregivers are reluctant to bring their child to the pediatricians’ office for fear of exposure to COVID-19. Unfortunately, there are other risks if they stay away from the office. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been a marked decrease in immunizations given. Both parents and patients are dealing with great anxiety.
But pediatricians are finding innovative ways to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other infections while keeping kids on track with routine medical care.
Jocelyn Schauer, MD, one of six pediatricians at Piedmont, says their patient visits dropped around 70% in March. The medical and administrative staff started taking action, at the end of February, as soon as they heard how fast the pandemic was spreading. By mid-March they were screening patients over the phone, meeting parents in the parking lot, launching telemedicine services and keeping sick patients completely away from well patients.
They recognized quickly that all these changes to usual procedures could be confusing for parents already fearful of exposure to COVID-19. To help parents understand the new safety precautions, one of their certified nursing assistants, Katie Baker, who was a film major in college, suggested using a cinematic format. After the success of her creation, Katie continues to produce videos for Piedmont’s social media platforms.
“The video allowed all of the parents to not just hear or read what precautions they had implemented, but actually watch how well visits and sick visits would be exercised,” says Gracie Steljes, parent of a newborn and a toddler. “It was filmed in the hallways we recognize and acted out by the friendly faces of doctors and nurses that we know and trust.”
“Everybody has really pitched in,” Dr. Schauer says. “We have been able to implement so many changes so quickly, and so effectively because of the trust and good communication within the entire office team. Nobody is doing this on their own.”
Although they started preparing early, personal protective equipment (PPE) already was in short supply.
“Everything was out of stock,” she says. “Fortunately, we went into our storage room and found N95s [face masks] that we saved from H1N1 [influenza pandemic in 2009].” Still, their supplies are limited, and they have been trying to find ways to sanitize and reuse the face masks.
The pediatricians and staff also started having huddles every morning. “Things were changing, sometimes twice a day,” Dr. Schauer says. The huddles (which are done virtually, to keep everyone in the office physically distanced), keeps everyone in the office informed of any changes, and she praises the teamwork shown by everyone in the practice.
Dr. Schauer says her practice, like many others, will continue with some of the changes they have made during the pandemic, including telemedicine, daily huddles, and transparency with families, letting them know what is going on and why.
“The important thing now,” she says, “is to reassure parents that it’s safe to bring their children in, especially for vaccines. We don’t want the COVID pandemic to turn into a measles epidemic six months from now.”
About the Author
Keith J. Mann, MD, MEd, is Vice President for Continuing Certification at the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). As lead of continuing certification (also known as Maintenance of Certification or MOC), his focus is on evolving the program to be increasingly relevant and valuable for pediatricians while upholding the high standards of being a certified pediatrician or pediatric subspecialist. He provides expertise in education, health care quality, and patient safety. Before joining the ABP leadership in 2018, he volunteered on various ABP committees for 15 years. He is certified in general pediatrics and is maintaining his certification.