Amid Omicron Surge Nurses Prioritize Testing to Make it Easier for Staff at Living Well Disability Services to Keep Working and Stay Ahead of the Spread
When Covid hit the states back in 2020 there was much to be learned about spread, and especially how to keep vulnerable populations safe. After two years of variants, vaccines, boosters, masks, and various distance measures there is still much to be learned, but much more is understood. And at the top of that is the importance of testing and mitigation within care facilities like ours, where transmission is easier with required and revolving 24/7 staffing, the number of people onsite as well as visits made outside the homes.
With the safety of those we serve and employees as our top priority, staff nurses created a team dedicated to Covid in the early weeks of the pandemic. Now Living Well has four staff nurses whose time is spent primarily on Covid mitigation and tracking—Annelise Stevens, Nicole Touroutoutoudis, Alexa Intveld and Megan Burgeson. With 500 employees and 300 people served, our nurses conduct tests at the corporate office and on site at the homes when cases are detected or suspected. Living Well is one of the few group home providers to have established a vaccine mandate and an extensive agency wide testing clinic. Living Well boasts a high vaccination rate within our homes and workforce—96% of people served and 90% of staff are vaccinated. Staff and people served who are unable to be vaccinated are tested weekly, and everyone with symptoms is tested at the first sign of illness. All of this helps keep our staff safer and healthier which enables us to maintain our high level of service and support for those we serve. Employee health and safety is made even more critical due to the massive worker shortage in the healthcare industry.
While employees of other organizations must seek testing offsite and wait in long lines, Living Well staff are given an easier way to test. Results are all in one place and returned faster. Data is easier to track as there is no follow up needed due to offsite testing. Nurses are also able to detect covid more rapidly if someone tests positive at a home and can test and evaluate the entire house to prevent further spread. Nurses test Monday through Friday and start their days at 6 AM finishing up close to midnight. Having a dedicated team makes the work more efficient. Last week alone 200 tests were administered.
Living Well Disability Services owns and operates 37 group homes in the twin Cites Metro, and provides services for people with developmental, physical, and intellectual disabilities. Many are severely disabled and most need round the clock care requiring medication distribution and assistance with meals and hygiene. The work is important, and employees are essential. It was crucial to find a way to manage Covid and how it would affect staffing, morale and quality of care. Our nurses, 13 in total, are providing a level of care unparalleled in the industry. We are proud to lead the way when it comes to staff testing and care.