The Power of Prevention: Together, we can save lives

July 13, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,
Social distancing and wearing masks can help limit the spread of COVID-19.

As health care workers and members of the communities in which we work and live, we are in a unique position to influence those around us and make a real difference by practicing safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While at work, we can take simple steps to protect patients, visitors and each other. In the community, we can be role models as others look to us for cues about maintaining safety in different situations.

Michigan Medicine employees — each and every one of us — have the power of prevention. There are many different ways we can work together to keep everyone safe. For example, we know that when implemented correctly and consistently, simple actions like wearing a mask, social distancing, practicing proper hand hygiene and participating in health screenings can help keep people safe.

Mask use

All faculty and staff are required to wear masks in the public and shared spaces within our facilities, in any enclosed public space like a U-M bus or shuttle, and when in close proximity (less than six feet) to others, even outdoors.

An Executive Order (No. 2020-147) issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday states that all individuals who leave their home or place of residence must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in any indoor public space; when outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household; and when waiting for or riding on public transportation, while in a taxi or ridesharing vehicle, or when using a private car service as a means of hired transportation.

When you wear a mask, you are doing two things: protecting those around you from potential illness or even death, and protecting yourself.  As we strive to better understand COVID-19, we continue to witness the dangers of this illness and its unpredictable impact, even on individuals with no known risk factors. We know that people without any symptoms can be carriers of the virus and pass it on simply by talking, coughing or sneezing when they are near others and not wearing a mask. Wearing a mask also helps keep you safe from potentially contracting COVID-19.

A flyer available from the World Health Organization (WHO) provides guidelines for how to wear a medical mask safely, and Michigan Medicine has developed a tip sheet for how to wear non-medical cloth face coverings. It is everyone’s responsibility to wear masks, and to speak up when others are not.

To be effective, masks must cover both your nose and mouth. Employees who notice a colleague not wearing a mask, or not wearing it correctly, are encouraged to use the “ARCC” method from the HRO Universal Skills training to speak up for safety: Ask a question, request a Change, voice a Concern and use your Chain of command to escalate concerns if needed.

If you are in a situation where you see patients or visitors not wearing masks, this scripting on face covering from the Office of Patient Experience can help guide your conversation.

Social distancing

According to the CDC, limiting close face-to-face contact with others is important to reducing the spread of COVID-19. The organization recommends staying at least six feet apart from others who are not from your household, in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

We know that social distancing can be difficult in many aspects of work life, especially for those working in clinical areas. Michigan Medicine is requiring employees who are able to perform their job functions remotely to continue working from home. In locations where employees are returning to work, leaders from Infection Prevention & Epidemiology and Facilities have partnered to evaluate spaces and put safeguards in place.

As a general rule, whenever and wherever possible, try to maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others. This includes when you are waiting in line at an entrance screening station, waiting in line at the cafeteria and waiting to get on an elevator. Signs posted in each elevator lobby remind riders to limit the number of passengers to maintain safe distancing.

It is even more important to maintain distance when you are removing your mask to eat or drink in shared work spaces, such as break rooms and conference rooms, or at a table in the cafeteria.

At this time, in-person staff gatherings and meetings of more than 10 people should be avoided. Meetings of 10 people or less are allowed when proper masking and social distancing can be maintained. Gatherings or meetings involving more than 10 employees should take place virtually.

When it is not possible to maintain distance, wearing a mask is essential to protect you and those around you.

Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene is a top priority at Michigan Medicine as one of the key measures for preventing the spread of illness and infection. Faculty and staff know its significance and many areas have been recognized for maintaining high levels of compliance over time.

The importance of washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands, is a message that has been shared far and wide by the CDC in their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Practicing proper hand hygiene is something we can all do to keep ourselves and others safe, at work, at home and in the community.

Self-screening tool

Last month, Michigan Medicine launched an online self-screening tool for employees to use at home each day before leaving for work. The new mobile tool was developed to replace verbal health screenings and to avoid bottlenecks at employee entrance points.

The tool, which can be accessed via smartphone on the website, asks questions about symptoms, risk factors, job function, household exposure and international travel. Based on your responses, you will either see a green screen with a check mark indicating that you can proceed through the screening point and report to work, or a red screen indicating that you should stay home and contact OHS.

All employees working on-site are urged to make the self-screening tool part of their daily routine. Staffing at the entry check points will soon decrease as Michigan Medicine Security and DPSS staff begin returning to their previous roles. Using the self-screening tool will be even more important to streamline entrance screenings and avoid crowding and delays.

Simple steps to protect lives

Taking the steps above to protect others is a responsibility we all share. Not doing these simple things goes against the very purpose we serve.

The threat of COVID-19 is far from over and we will be facing the challenges it brings for many months — if not years — to come. We are asking every Michigan Medicine employee to embrace the power of prevention and practice safe behaviors every day, at work and in the community, to protect our patients, our visitors and each other.

Together, let’s continue to save lives.