Outbreak drills are critical to the success of any outbreak preparedness program. They have nothing to do with the actual illness or infection. Outbreak drills keep everyone safe from potential harm and ensure that proper procedures are put in place to handle future outbreaks. Even if the person who is most at risk for the disease does not contract it, having an outbreak plan and a protocol in place is essential.
A large outbreak can be catastrophic to the entire community. The inability to contain it can result in people dying or suffering long-term health issues that could have been avoided. There is no substitute for a plan that ensures the protection of all those who may come into contact with a highly contagious individual.
In addition to training in personal hygiene and prevention classes, there are several other tools available to provide for your outbreak preparedness needs. A copy of the CDC guide to preventing influenza is a good place to start. You can also buy such things as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
There are also communication protocols that should be implemented in any healthcare facility. The staff should be trained in how to avoid contaminating others through direct contact with the patient. This includes patients who may already be ill and the sickest staff members who are present when an outbreak occurs.
As always, the most essential step is making sure that the entire staff knows the plans. Establishing and enforcing the guidelines is critical to the success of a plan. It is also essential to hold staff members accountable for ensuring that they follow these procedures. Because no one wants to infect anyone else, they need to understand that they are part of the solution and not the problem.
With this in mind, you may also want to work with your medical team to ensure that everyone is aware of the status of their colleagues and the safety precautions they need to take. In this way, every person on the staff understands that even when the sickest person in the unit is present, everyone should be on the same page regarding the rules and regulations. In many cases, it will make people more comfortable to follow such protocols and will increase their chances of being symptom free when an outbreak strikes.
Another great way to use outbreak drills to educate your staff is to come up with fun and entertaining games. One of my favorite game is the Ebola Ice Bucket Challenge. By letting everyone take a turn rinsing the patient’s nose with an antiseptic solution, everyone gets a chance to demonstrate what kind of cleanliness they can offer. You may want to include this game at weekly staff meetings so everyone can practice what they have learned and show off what they have learned!
Once again, it is critical to educate yourself and your staff about the virus. Many hospitals are required to have policies in place to protect staff members and patients alike. You want everyone to be trained in proper protocol and procedures, and you also want them to be aware of what to do in an emergency. This not only protects the staff members, but it also helps ensure that the patients stay healthy.