Do We Put All Training on Hold During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

Continuing education is vital to your growth as a professional, particularly in a demanding and high-stress career in emergency medicine. Practice norms are consistently shifting to meet new needs. Scientific innovations can upend common wisdom and revolutionize the way you care for your patients. To stay ahead of the trend, you must participate in ongoing training. Moreover, regular training in key skills—especially life-saving skills that you may not use daily—ensures all agencies can offer the best possible care.


As the COVID pandemic sweeps the globe, healthcare organizations must confront an uncomfortable question: Do we put all training on hold? And if so, for how long? Every training session has the potential to spread the virus, with some even becoming super-spreader events. Yet failing to train your team, especially as knowledge about the virus and its treatment grows, presents its own set of risks. Here’s what you need to know to make good decisions. 


Why You Shouldn’t Put Training on Hold 

Continuing education is more important than ever. Consider how much we have learned about COVID over the past few months. For example, we now know that masks are a vital tool in the fight against the virus. Without continuing education, your team will miss out on important COVID updates, as well as other relevant news in your field of medicine. 


Equally important is the fact that there is no reason to put training on hold, even during a pandemic. It is possible to make many training sessions fully virtual. Even those that require live demonstrations can adopt strategies to mitigate, and sometimes totally eliminate, risk. So don’t trade quality medical care for the illusion of safety. You can keep your team safe while giving them the skills they need to serve your patient population. 


Making Training as Safe as Possible 

So what can you do to make training safer? These strategies are key: 

  • Make training remote, even when doing so requires more planning. 
  • When training must occur in person, mandate masks, temperature checks, and strict social distancing. 
  • Don’t assume that just because your team is in contact during the week, training does not increase their risk. Every in-person contact increases the risk of transmitting the virus. 
  • Set up barriers around demonstrators and trial stations. For example, if you are practicing resuscitation, set up a plexiglass barrier around the mannequin or model you use. 
  • Never reuse equipment during a training session. 
  • Disinfect all surfaces before and after training. 
  • Keep trainings as brief as possible to minimize exposure. Consider switching to a one-on-one training model if possible. 

Giving Flexible Options 

If you must have some in-person training, give your team as much flexibility as possible. Federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act may require you to implement reasonable accommodations for disabled and high-risk team members. Even if you’re not legally required to do so, protecting your team boosts morale. Try the following: 

  • Give high-risk team members a training alternative, such as virtual education. 
  • Rigidly enforce all rules. Saying you’re going to socially distance your training session does not matter if you fail to actually do so. 
  • Ask team members for feedback about what you can do to help them feel safer. They may have innovative ideas that never would have occurred to you. 
  • Delay noncritical training or consider doing so for the highest-risk individuals on your team.
  • Be mindful of the risks training may pose for team members' families. Even if your staff is healthy, their children, spouses, or parents may be at risk. During a pandemic, every decision you make extends well beyond your immediate circle. 


Equipment Training 

No matter where you practice or whom you serve, your team must be prepared to properly use a wide range of equipment. Even if you have to send team members home with machines at night or allow them to practice their use in private outdoor areas, ensure everyone can use all of your tools. 

The right portable suction machine has never been more important. During a pandemic, you must be prepared to clear patients’ airways no matter where they are, lest you risk moving them to high-traffic areas and contributing to the spread of a lethal pandemic. For help choosing the right option for your organization, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.