13 Tips To Reopening Clinicals And Labs

Earlier this year COVID-19 forced many career colleges to temporarily halt their on ground clinical and lab operations to keep staff and students safe. While we may have yet to see the worst of the pandemic, we’ve learned enough about the virus to make informed decisions about reopening on-ground clinicals and labs.

As schools look to reopen their clinicals and labs, the biggest priority is limiting the spread of germs, therefore limiting the chance of infecting anyone physically present. The three key components of limiting the spread of germs are wearing face coverings, regular handwashing, and keeping distance from other people.

Through careful space design and detailed safety protocols, schools can ensure that these basic components are in place. By following a combination of the tips below, schools can reopen their clinicals and labs for operations without fully endangering individuals on-site.

1. Move theory classes online

The easiest way to minimize any risk of spreading germs is by not having students and staff gather in person unless it’s absolutely necessary. For hands-on work conducted in clinicals and labs, students and staff must be present. But for theory classes, move those online if you can.

2. Implement digital daily health checks

The best way to prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading to others is by keeping anyone exhibiting symptoms from entering the clinical or lab. Through the CourseKey platform, students can report their symptoms in a daily health check survey before they go to a clinical or lab site. In the event an accreditor requires insight into symptom reports, schools can easily export reports of students’ symptoms.

3. Utilize temperature monitoring devices

Similar to health checks, temperature monitoring devices ensure that anyone with an unnaturally high temperature does not come on site. This is vital to keeping the people on site safe. You can find monitors online starting at $40.

One thing to note about temperature monitoring devices is that you will need a staff member to conduct the temperature check every time someone comes on-site. These readings also do not provide integration capabilities that generate reports of a students’ temperature reading. Still, they are a great added layer of security to keep anyone with a clear temperature off-site.

4. Take advantage of touch-free attendance

Students completing hours in clinicals and labs typically record their attendance using a sign in sheet or biometric scanner. These methods utilize shared surfaces and facilitate the spread of germs, putting people at risk. Through a mobile attendance tool that integrates with your SIS, students can check themselves in on their phone, preventing them from having to touch shared surfaces.

5. Stagger clinical and lab sessions

To facilitate proper social distancing, schools can stagger the time that students come into clinicals & labs to have fewer students on-site at a time. Many clinicals and labs already call for students to work in tight quarters, so having fewer students in class at once is ideal.

6. Schedule staff shifts to reduce number of staff on-site at once

Similar to having fewer students on-site to allow for more social distancing, schedule staff shifts so that you have as few staff members on site as necessary.

7. Mandate proper PPE usage

To limit the spread of germs, require any person in the clinical to wear a face covering and gloves. To add another layer of safety, add gowns and eye protection.

8. Map out common spaces to show 6 ft distances

While staff and students will be informed to keep their distance, reminders are always helpful. By using stickers, duct tape, or any other adhesive, map out the common areas to keep everyone in the space informed about where to stand and conscious of their distance.

9. Place signs in common areas indicating safety guidelines

 Along the same lines as mapping out common spaces, place signs in common areas and doors to keep people informed about safety protocols and update them as public health guidelines change.

10. Increase the frequency of routine cleaning of labs and common areas

Clinicals and labs are typically sterile environments to begin with, but to keep them consistently sterile, increase the frequency of routine cleaning and disinfecting. When a student is finished using equipment in the lab, have a staff member disinfect the equipment to kill any germs left behind from previous use.

11. Have a backup plan in case staff need to stay home

If your school plans to have as few staff members on site as possible, have a plan in place for someone to come fill in if an absence occurs. There’s a chance that a staff member will want to stay home because they either pose a risk or have actual symptoms and don’t want to spread germs. To keep the clinical and lab open, have someone else ready to step in for them.

12. Frequent walkthrough of labs by departmental leaders assigned to buildings

This is a vital step to ensure that buildings are meeting compliance standards and that they are set up correctly to ensure safety. It’s a step that is great for making sure that the building is maintained correctly and that any outstanding issues are spotted and addressed.

13. Words of encouragement

This may not feel essential to keeping the clinicals and labs safe, but it goes a long way. Phrases like “let’s work together to keep each other safe,” “we can do this,” and “let’s beat COVID-19 together” are all things that will bring a positive energy to a tough situation. It will also help people buy in more to following guidelines and paying attention to details. You can include these messages on signage, as confirmation notes after health checks, in emails, or in actual dialogue.

Final Note

No two clinicals and labs are alike. Make sure to give each space the same amount of attention. Until there is a proven vaccine available to everyone, schools will have to double down on limiting the spread of germs in their clinicals and labs while open for operation. If everyone pays close attention to guidelines and works together to keep staff and students safe, schools can reopen their clinicals and labs without compromising the health of their people.

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