Healthcare providers across all care communities are on the front line each day ensuring quality care is delivered, even during a time of uncertainty. Clinical care and expertise has never been more important than it is today. As one of our most valuable assets, it is important we as a community provide the proper support and technology to our frontline clinical staff.
Cornerstones of Care partners with children and families to improve safety and health by providing services spanning mental and behavioral health, foster care and adoption, youth, family and community supports and education. It has case managers, social workers, teachers, and more on the frontline delivering care to children and families who have experience trauma. In addition to delivering care, these very same providers are having to address personal challenges due to COVID-19. Executive Director of Missouri Programs, Justin Horton, said like many other agencies in the industry, Cornerstones of Care immediately adjusted the time off and extended leave time policies for its team. It’s important for care providers to feel supported and have the time they need to manage the impacts of COVID-19 on their own families.
During the early onset of COVID-19, Cornerstones of Care immediately became proactive, rather than reactive. Their first step was creating an Infection Control Team. It meets with leadership three times a week from eight to nine and discuss everything from CDC guidance, legislative updates and organization alerts. In another effort to minimize risk and keep their team safe, Cornerstones of Care repurposed one residential dormitory into a quarantine location. Horton said they immediately updated their admission guidelines for all programs, including residential care. Cornerstones of Care implemented a process to screen the children and families they serve, and their own team. They ask a variety of questions to determine if someone was exposed and if yes, how they were exposed. Other questions included if they were wearing a mask, if they practiced social distancing, and other regulation-based questions.
As part of ongoing efforts to support their team, Cornerstones of Care adapted a new policy to allow team members to take extended leave before they use some of their designated sick or vacation time. The organization and its executive team donated hundreds of hours to a “leave bank,” which people can access if necessary. Overall, Horton said they are encouraging staff to take time off and are working to ensure everyone is feeling safe, supported and healthy.
Mental Health First Aid taught us that everyone handles trauma differently. Once COVID-19 began to unfold, some team members needed to immediately take time off to focus on their families’ health and safety. Cornerstones of Care understands these variances among their own staff, therefore worked to stay connected to their team members by consistently checking in and ensuring individuals get enough time off while keeping the organization fully staffed.
While many team members are essential, Horton said the rapid shift to a large virtual workforce ended up creating opportunities to provide more care. “Specifically, in our foster care team, our team members have a lot time back in their days and can provide more care to individuals,” Horton said. “Windshield time disappeared, so rather than driving to an individual’s house, providing care and then driving to next location has ultimately led to providing more care and services. You end one telehealth session and can immediately meet with your next family. There was a significant reduction in hours waiting for court hearings as those turned virtual as well. Our community-based providers felt more efficient, they have more time back in their day and appreciate the virtual care model.” Less time driving, waiting or doing anything other than providing care empowers clinicians to spend more time doing what they love: serving their community and improving outcomes, which can help boost morale and productivity.
Horton said in large, children, families and teams have shown just how resilient they can be despite the pandemic. Part of the organization’s certification in the Sanctuary Model® emphasizes selfcare to prevent burnout and process unexpected life changes
“As an agency, this [preventing staff burnout] has always been an emphasis for us,” Horton said. “Whether there’s a pandemic or not, we try to actively facilitate our team members taking care of themselves and those around them, both personally and professionally.”
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