Article

Staff Training

Pediatrics in a Pandemic

8 expert-served tips for training staff to treat tots in today’s tough environment

The masks everybody’s wearing are scary. How come Grandma and Grandpa can’t come in with Mom and me? Where are the cool puzzles?

Seeing the pandemic from a kid’s perspective is important. Treating them in this environment is challenging and requires fresh tactics and training.

“If you’re not fully open yet, my best advice...is to do a soft launch,” suggests Gary Gerber, O.D., co-founder of Treehouse Eyes, with 15 locations that provide myopia care for kids. “We called it a dress rehearsal and did a couple of sessions in succession because you need that bridge to patient No. 2. It makes you realize you’re going to need more time than you think.”

Somehow, you have to try to still make the experience fun. “I’ve talked to staff about starting a contest for kids showing off their glasses with their masks,” explains Linda Chous, O.D., owner of Glasses Menagerie in Minneapolis.

LINDA CHOUS, O.D., OWNER OF GLASSES MENAGERIE IN MINNEAPOLIS

GARY GERBER, O.D., CO-FOUNDER OF TREEHOUSE EYES, WITH 15 LOCATIONS THAT PROVIDE MYOPIA CARE FOR KIDS

Here’s what else they have to say about training staff + caring for kids in the current environment.

1.
TEAMWORK. “It’s less training per se than working together as a team when it comes to deciding about office flow, etcetera.” —Dr. Chous

2.
TIME. “Anybody who is open already will tell you they didn’t realize reopening was a lot harder than closing. Everything takes a week or two before you and your staff get in the right cadence and it becomes muscle memory.” —Dr. Gerber

3.
OVEREXPLAINING. “The biggest thing we find is the need to overcommunicate with the parents beforehand so they can let their kids know. You need trained staff for that. For example, we tell the kids when we open the door, the person greeting them will be wearing a mask. We also explain we’re going to check their temperature and Mom’s.” —Dr. Gerber

4.
MESSAGING. “This pandemic has helped me and my staff emphasize the importance of a backup pair for all kids. I used to say, ‘What if you’re on vacation and they break?’ Now I’ll just say, ‘What if there’s another pandemic?’” —Dr. Chous

5.
SCREEN TIME. “With kids spending more time on devices and computers during the pandemic, you really need to look for dry eye and problems related to increased exposure to blue light.” —Dr. Chous

6.
FEAR. “You’ll get more curveballs than you expect, so make sure your staff is ready for that. For example, a child may be crying because there’s a man with a mask and that’s like the dentist who always hurts. Take time to get everyone up to speed.” —Dr. Gerber

7.
MULTITASKING. “We now have shifts. We’ve trained so that everybody can pretty much do everything. That means they can multitask and cover for other folks, which is important right now.” —Dr. Chous

8.
VIGILANCE. “With home learning, kids are on their computers and devices even more than before. There are so many things to address now, and everybody on staff has to be up to speed and vigilant, even more than ever.” —Dr. Chous

The bottom line? Training will really pay off because “you’ll have to do the math and work with staff to do some things more quickly,” explains Dr. Gerber. “For example, we’ve spaced patients to every hour, out from 20 minutes. That means potential top-line revenue has dropped by two-thirds, even though fixed expenses have not gone down.

“You and [if they’re well trained] your staff quickly need to think about what you can do to take less time because that is not sustainable.”

—STEPHANIE K. DE LONG