No matter how many processes, procedures, strategies, or fail-safes your facility has in place, a crisis will occur someday.

As a director, you do everything in your power to anticipate a potential crisis and to have a plan that deals with that crisis. But it is impossible to map out every possible scenario, so you should have a clear understanding of how to handle unforeseen situations.

Establishing a SERT Team

All facilities should have a team in place to assist the directors with potential (and actual) crises at the facility. As the director, you should put together a group of people from all levels of your organization – called a Serious Event Response Team (SERT). The team is responsible for:

  • Planning for a crisis.
  • Starting an investigation as to the how and why (and what can be done to prevent a similar crisis in the future).
  • Documenting findings and following up with principals regarding the findings.
  • Designing an evaluation plan of how the crisis was handled.

Assessment and Immediate Reactions

While a SERT team is instrumental in handling potential crises, unanticipated crises will occur. The first 24 hours are the most critical, and there are a few things you should do immediately. Being quick to react will not only better protect your patients and their families, but also your staff. Regardless of the actual crisis, the first thing that you must do is evaluate the problem and immediately take action to tend to the needs of your patients and staff. Be sure to administer acute medical attention or transfer patients to another facility if necessary (meaning your facility was unable to treat them).

Next Steps

Crisis situations are fraught with activity, all while family members, possibly the media, your staff members, and others are clamoring for answers to what happened!? and why did this happen!?. In this time of crisis, it’s human nature to want to be helpful, but be careful. It’s best to be more circumspect in the information you give until you’re certain of its accuracy.

Be careful to not give out too much information right away. This could backfire if it turns out to be incorrect. In other words, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “I don’t know, but I will find out and, as soon as do, I will come to you.”

Establish a Main Point of Contact

When it comes to the family of those involved in the crisis, it’s a good idea to have one representative from your facility be the family’s main point of contact. This person can act as a sounding board and comforter, as well as the individual who will ensure that the family has the correct facts (when those correct facts are known and understood). Having one point of contact for the family members can help prevent false information from getting to them.

When it comes to investigating the crisis itself, one of the most important roles in the investigation is that of the person you choose to interview staff and patients. This person must be extremely tactful yet be able to elicit information from stressed individuals. Experience can be invaluable in this regard. Through the investigation, you will be able to determine the root cause and next needed action to correct any failings in your procedures that may have contributed to the incident.

It’s been our experience that what patients and families want most are answers, an understanding as to why it happened, and reassurance that you’re doing everything possible to ensure a similar crisis won’t happen in the future.

If you’re enjoying the Snelling Medical Blog – and we certainly hope you are! – come back next week when we discuss how to handle the psychological and emotional challenges caregivers face on the job. Contact us today!


NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.