In October 2021, ThedaCare launched a Labor Pool, requesting exempt employees to support frontline teams and patients by helping during a COVID-19 surge. The increased number of patients, which included those infected with COVID-19 and those being treated for other health conditions, was leading to staffing challenges.
“During this time of workplace shortages nationally, ThedaCare, like nearly all health care systems, is not immune to these challenges,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Maggie Lund. “Through the ability to quickly adjust plans to provide care and support the needs of patients and communities, ThedaCare has implemented several solutions to help with staffing levels, including some innovative measures that are having a positive impact within our system. We continue to be dedicated to providing the best care possible for our patients.”
Throughout this time ThedaCare has and continues to be committed to team members, with no layoffs or furloughs.
Plans to address staffing levels include:
Redeploying team members to areas of need.
Accepting applications for all roles.
Offering sign-on and referral bonuses for specific roles https://careers.thedacare.org/us/en.
Adding additional temporary staff through other resources and partners, including the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry.
In addition to those solutions, ThedaCare also requested all exempt, or salaried team members, both in clinical and non-clinical roles, to provide eight hours every 1-2 weeks in a needed role to alleviate some of the work or stress on frontline staff.
“We know how dedicated all of our team members are to providing exceptional care for all of our community health needs,” said Lund. “By asking exempt employees to support our efforts, it will relieve some of the work from our frontline caregivers who have and continue to provide this exceptional care. I’m proud of those who are stepping in to help where they can, demonstrating our commitment to our team members, our community and our loved ones.”
Depending upon the license and skill set of team members, each person had the ability to select from four roles where they met qualifications. Examples include assisting with housekeeping duties, stocking/running supplies, helping patients order meals and collecting/distributing meal trays. If a person had an active license, for example, a Registered Nurse (RN) or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), this team member could provide time at a vaccination clinic or perform COVID-19 testing.
“It is important to note that we do not have exempt team members in roles that provide direct patient care unless they are qualified to do so,” said Lund. “Those qualified to do so are allowing our frontline team members to be available for other work directly tied to patient care, allowing them to continue to provide the best care possible for our communities.”
When a team member signed up for a shift, a leader contacted them ahead of the shift to discuss skill set and ensure it is an appropriate assignment match. When the person arrived to the designated area, they were met by a qualified team member or leader who provided an overview of the assignment.
The initial call-to-action was for a period of six weeks and was evaluated based on COVID-19 activity in the region, census in facilities and staffing needs.
In January 2023, ThedaCare reactivated the Labor Pool to help provide the best patient care, while also utilizing our resources in the most efficient way possible during the surge of COVID, flu and RSV.
Sharing Her Experience
In late 2021, Jackie Anhalt, ThedaCare Chief Nursing Officer, signed up for a shift at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. She was able to apply her nursing skills to offer assistance to caregivers at the bedside, as well help patients on the Oncology Unit at the hospital.
“I put on my scrubs, and it brought back many memories,” said Anhalt. “I have always believed in the saying, ‘once a nurse, always a nurse’.”
In her daily role as CNO, Anhalt oversees and coordinates nursing operations throughout ThedaCare, directing the largest group of team members in the system, which includes more than 2,000 nurses.
“It was a humbling experience to step in and help team members,” she said. “Our caregivers continue to be dedicated to our patients and families. I see their commitment every single day, and it inspires me. I feel very privileged to join other team members in offering this type of help during this surge of COVID cases that we are experiencing.”
By completing tasks such helping discharge patients to return home, providing warm blankets and other care items, it allowed clinical teams to continue providing care that is critical for patients.
“Throughout this pandemic, I believe people have been compelled to help one another,” she said. “Often, we might not feel like there is a way to help frontline team members who have been bravely caring for patients over the last 18 months. This is a small way that we can. I’m extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to assist them.”