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Communicating with Employees Can Ease H1N1 Fears, Curb Absenteeism

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Media, October 14, 2009

Although it may be perceived as a chore, there's a sizeable payoff to executives meeting with frontline clinicians now to assure them of their safety during an H1N1 swine flu outbreak.

Health First, Inc., based in Rockledge, FL, has begun conducting 30-minute "rap sessions" with employees at its various locations, during which top managers explain preparations and other information related to H1N1 response plans.

James Kendig, MS, CHSP, CHCM, HEM, LHRM, vice president of safety and security at Health First, is joining the system's infection control manager for 12 scheduled sessions, which are occurring throughout October.

"We believe a better informed employee will come to work [during an outbreak]" Kendig said, who will also present at HCPro's "Emergency Management Coordinator's Workshop" in Atlanta on October 26.

Other employee-based initiatives Health First has taken include:

  • Developed a continuing medical education offering about H1N1 for medical staff members

  • Created an online H1N1 toolkit, which includes information about prevention steps authored by Health First's infection control office, a PowerPoint presentation, and the system's vaccination plan

Research points to pandemic absenteeism

In a study published in the July 2009 issue of online scientific journal PLoS One by Daniel Barnett, MD, MPH, researchers surveyed more than 1,800 workers in public health departments in three states about their willingness to respond to a pandemic. The results may translate somewhat to hospitals: One in six respondents was unlikely to show up for work in a pandemic outbreak, regardless of severity.

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