Supporting Staff Through a Complete Hospital Evacuation and Extended Displacement Period

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Complete hospital evacuations due to natural or man-made disasters can have repercussions on all levels of hospital operations. An extended displacement period following an evacuation exacerbates the situation. Retaining a healthy, employed workforce following a disaster is a crucial step in ensuring that a facility is effectively staffed when it returns to normal operations. In this article, the authors address the issue of staff support during evacuation and extended displacement by examining the actions taken by the leadership of the VA New York Harbor Health Care System, a Veterans Health Administration facility, in response to the evacuation and displacement caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. As staff began to realize that the displacement would be extensive, frustration, complaints, and a sense of disenfranchisement emerged. The authors' findings suggest that the most valuable tool to allay staffs' fears were monthly forums, whereby staff had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with leadership and ask questions. An important consideration when staff are displaced is the role that cultural differences between host and displaced facility staff plays, even when those facilities are part of the same system. Significant attention must be given to cultural differences, in both acknowledging and resolving them. The study suggests that direct communication with leadership, support from upper and middle management, and an understanding that sharing best practices across facilities strengthens the entire team are key approaches to addressing these challenges.

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