On the front lines of home care

June 29, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,
For some, providing care during the pandemic means storing PPE in their trunk.

For many at Michigan Medicine, working lives seemed to change overnight. From the donning of new types of personal protective equipment, to working from home and becoming intimately familiar with Zoom, everyone has had to learn and adjust to new habits and procedures. 

For members of Michigan Medicine’s Home Care Services, there have indeed been large adjustments, but the work itself has very much remained “business as usual,” according to Debbie Kovacevich, nurse manager for the department. 

“We are doing patient health screenings and checks for everyone and following strict PPE requirements to keep everyone safe at every appointment,” Kovacevich said. “Our employees are being extra cautious to make sure they protect both themselves and their patients.”

Important work while on the road 

Michigan Home Care Services is comprised of six separate groups: Home Med, House Calls, Maternal Infant Health Program, Michigan Visiting Care, Michigan Visiting Nurses and Wheelchair Seating Services.

The majority of their work is done in patients’ homes — adding a level of complexity during a pandemic as employees are encouraged to practice social distancing as much as possible. 

“We carry out work that is proven to be most effective and best administered in a person’s residence,” said Maribel Weitz, a physical therapist with Michigan Visiting Nurses.

In addition to physical therapy, Home Care Services perform a wide-range of functions, including IV infusion and mobility evaluations for wheelchairs. Some of that work has shifted to helping recovering COVID-19 patients. 

“We’ve had about 30 COVID-19 patients. We were able to provide remote patient monitoring and additional health calls to ensure their full recovery without putting anyone else at risk,” Kovacevich said.

A change in protocol 

For team members in Home Care Services, habits and procedures have been adjusted in major ways.

“A lot of time the PPE I use is in my trunk,” Weitz said. “So I try to put that on while maintaining privacy for our patients and without raising alarm to neighbors.”

Additionally, the team is taking extra steps to limit the number of people who enter a home.

“We are more focused than ever on trying to assign the same providers to the same patient each time,” Kovacevich said. “If it’s not absolutely necessary, we won’t introduce new personnel into a place of residence.”

Home care team members are taking increased precautions during COVID-19.

Looking out for employees

During such a challenging time, the department is taking additional measures to make sure its staff is cared for, not just physically, but mentally as well. Every other week, the team meets virtually with the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience, where they learn stress management strategies. And at their daily call-in huddles, team members are able to ask questions and get support from their fellow coworkers. 

“The daily huddles are a great way to stay informed about what’s new and what’s changed,” Weitz said. “That is so helpful to get my questions answered and share best practices during a time of high anxiety.”

Moving forward

As the pandemic continues and the team looks for additional ways for Michigan to remain on the downside of the curve, Home Care Services is adopting virtual care as another way to check in on patients.

“We used to rarely, if ever, do telephone visits because physical therapy is just so hands on,” Weitz said. “But with the onset of the pandemic and the availability of telephone and virtual visits, it has allowed me to effectively adjust my care plans.”

Weitz said that telemedicine has not impeded the quality of care in any way. “We still get to see patients in their homes, but it’s not as often — and that keeps them, and us, as safe as possible. That’s the entire point of the type of care we provide, and we’re proud to be able to keep offering it throughout the pandemic.”