Kris Mastrangelo, OTR/L, LNHA, MBA, President and CEO of Harmony Healthcare International

With the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating frequent and sometimes rapid changes in how senior care facilities operate, it’s understandable that the process can be confusing to staff.

Staff uncertainty and rumors can lead to confusion and unease, though, so facilities need to adjust their communications policies to prevent and control misinformation. With some strategic changes, facilities can ensure that all staff have the correct information and can feel confident in being well-informed.

Provide Up-to-Date Information

One of the first changes a facility should embrace is finding ways to promptly provide staff with updates. Kris Mastrangelo, OTR/L, LNHA, MBA, President and CEO of Harmony Healthcare International notes that Harmony Healthcare International has had success with its daily morning huddles.

“When it comes to changes with policies, regulations, and general updates, those are the first items of business in morning huddles,” she notes.

“Policies are announced, discussed, and clarified as a team, so there are no miscommunications. We continually remind colleagues of the change during the subsequent daily huddles and ensure a hard copy is sent out after the initial discussion. Morning huddles are critical for this exact reason; they allow discussion of all questions and permit me the peace of mind knowing that everyone is on the same page.”

Be sure to also work closely with your public relations and communications teams to ensure consistency across all communications modes, both within and outside of your facility.

Facilitate Staff-to-Supervisor Communication

With changing policies, schedules, and even management changes, facilities may need to revisit their staff-to-supervisor communication techniques. Mastrangelo recommends that all communication occur in writing so that senior teams can be copied in and updated.

She asks that even when supervisors and staff have a one-on-one conversation, supervisors send a synopsis of the meeting to the colleague and to the senior teams. “This is so important because, ultimately, I want to be in the conversation and support everyone involved, even if I cannot be present,” she notes.

Mastrangelo also highlights the importance of transparency throughout all facility communications. She explains, “our monthly calendar is sent out daily to all employees. Any event we attend is sent out to management. Our morning huddles are documented and the notes are sent out to the entire company. It’s all about transparency and systems.”

Promptly Handle Misinformation

If misinformation does occur within staff, promptly taking the right steps to correct that information can help to quickly address the issue and prevent further confusion. “The most important thing is not to make anyone “wrong” or “shame them” for not having the correct information,” says Mastrangelo.

“That said, I either give them a call or send an email clarifying the correction. It depends on the situation, though, and I do believe that tone can be lost in translation, in which case I would just pick up the phone. More often than not, calling is faster than writing the email; however, it is important to document and carbon-copy the group, so the misinformation does not permeate throughout the group.”

Stay Transparent

Most importantly, stay honest and transparent as your facility navigates the pandemic, as well as day-to-day operations. Staff can recognize that honesty, and they’ll also recognize if you’re not being transparent with them.

“Be transparent with your team!” urges Mastrangelo. “It is so simple! Separate your nerves from what is so; what I mean by this if you are feeling overwhelmed that day, take a breather. Don’t bring that energy to your office because it is palpable.

“You have to check that at your door and lead the team with courage and commitment. Remember, courage is different from being fearless. Courage is acknowledging the fear and choosing to step around it rather than not acknowledging the elephant in the room.”