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How NYC Health + Hospitals Trained 20K Staffers to Combat COVID-19

By Jack O'Brien  
   June 11, 2020

Leaders from the City's public health system detailed their staffing strategies in a Health Affairs study released Thursday afternoon.

Executives from NYC Health + Hospitals (NYC H+H), New York City's public health system, detailed how the organization trained 20,000 staffers to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in a Health Affairs study released Thursday afternoon

This spring, NYC H+H, with its 11 acute-care hospitals and three field hospitals established to handle patients infected with COVID-19, was at the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.

In response to the immense clinical and operational challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak, the organization recognized that it needed to recruit additional staff from around the country and adequately train them for the issues they'd be facing.

To help bring the necessary talent on board, NYC H+H worked with private staffing firms and the Department of Defense on its recruiting efforts.

Subsequently, NYC H+H's centralized onboarding team created a "single-source portal for medical providers requiring credentialing and established new staff positions to increase efficiency." 

Related: Nurse Who Treated N.Y.'s Coronavirus 'Patient Zero' Sues Hospital, Report Says

NYC H+H's leaders who contributed to the article included Christopher Keeley, assistant vice president for the Office of Ambulatory Care; Natalia Cineas, senior vice president and system chief nurse executive for the Office of Patient Centered Care/Nursing Administration; and Donnie Bell, deputy chief medical officer of Medical and Professionals, among others.

"To care for an immense wave of critically ill COVID-19 patients, [NYC H+H] had to develop new systems and tools to redeploy, recruit, onboard, and train thousands of staff and volunteers in record time," the leaders wrote. "Achieving our goals required that we innovate rapidly, communicate effectively, and adapt readily to address emerging challenges."

Reflecting on how the organization navigated the first wave of the pandemic, leaders added that these strategies should serve as "foundational elements of surge staffing plans for public health emergencies" going forward.

Related: Northwell Opens Acute Ventilator Recovery Units for Coronavirus Patients

In addition to its recruitment and training efforts, NYC H+H benefited from the redeployment of physicians to vulnerable areas across the enterprise, namely the emergency department and intensive care units, which bore the brunt of the COVID-19 caseload.

The system also convened a multidisciplinary team representing four departments, Office of Patient Centered Care, Human Resources, the Enterprise Service Desk (IT), and the Department of Occupational Health Services, to determine how to redeploy nurses.

Related: Northeast Hospitals Saw Revenue Drop by More Than 25% in Mid-March Due to Coronavirus

NYC H+H attributed its success in redeploying and recruiting talent amid a public health crisis to "flexibility, communication, and technology," highlighting the refinement of the onboarding process as the most essential development.

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: New York City, New York / USA - May 29 2020: New York American nurses and doctors, frontline workers expressing gratitude. New York City healthcare workers during coronavirus outbreak in America. / Editorial credit: tetiana.photographer /

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