Responding to COVID-19: Advocating for Our Future
Dear ASHT Members,
As a nation, we are facing unprecedented times with the outbreak and rapid spread of COVID-19. To prevent further transmission of the highly contagious virus, measures are being put in place, including social distancing, and many states have ordered shelter-in-place mandates. Our lives are changing by the hour.
As healthcare providers, we are deeply impacted by these new social regulations. As hand therapists, we have close contact with individuals, but are being asked to physically distance ourselves to prevent the spread of the virus. It is an understatement to say it is a challenge to balance risk when providing patient care to those in need of our services, while simultaneously trying to protect ourselves, our own families and significant others.
Employers are responding with equal confusion. Some are taking extreme measures that include layoffs and restricted work environments, while others are continuing business as usual. How do we navigate this alarming time in our lives? What is the optimal response during this crisis?
ASHT members are looking to leadership for direction on best practices for patient and therapist safety during this pandemic. Members are concerned and seeking association guidance for rules to follow, regulations to bring back to their employers and procedures to implement for patient care. There is no single strategy that captures every unique working situation in which our members are engaged. But what our members do have is a voice through the experts.
The recommendation from the ASHT Board of Directors is to rely on the experts of virus management: the U.S. Department of State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) who have released numerous guidelines and recommendations for healthcare professionals. National recommendations are being made to ensure safety of both patients and healthcare personnel. The most consistent message is to triage urgent care, while delaying elective and non-urgent visits.
State and local governments have also responded with directives, and have made resources available for your specific geographical region. Our partner organizations, AOTA and APTA, have also posted resources for members to review for patient care and practice management. It is paramount to stay informed, as the updates and recommendations are changing frequently.
I urge you to utilize one of your strongest assets as a therapist — advocacy — to navigate this unparalleled time with your employer. Be empowered to review the experts’ guidelines for healthcare workers/facilities by reading the information in the links included above. Immerse yourself in the available resources to learn what is best for your clinical/work situation. Utilize the information from the experts to confidently advocate for what you need in order to feel safe at work.
One hopeful glimmer in this tumultuous time is the rapid evolution of reliable telehealth opportunities for our field. The need to access patients remotely is imminent during this pandemic. Working with our legislative consultant, and in collaboration with AOTA and APTA, ASHT is actively engaged, now, in policy efforts to expand this possibility for occupational and physical therapists. Stay alert for updates from our Practice Division.
This is a crucial and defining moment in our lives and careers. We have always been profound advocates for our patients and practice management, but now we need to be vested to boldly self-advocate for our working future. There is no rule book to follow, but this is a foundational opportunity for personal and professional growth. Ignite the leader within, and be empowered to advocate for yourself, and, in turn, our patients and profession will benefit.
We are a team, and a family.
We will get through this crisis together.
Mojca “Mo” Herman, MA, OTR/L, CHT
2019-2020 ASHT President
ASHT 43rd Annual Meeting
ASHT is aware of and closely monitoring developments related to the coronavirus outbreak. The health and safety of our attendees, speakers, exhibitors, staff and guests is our main priority.
We currently expect that the ASHT 43rd Annual Meeting scheduled for October 1-3, 2020 will proceed as planned. We are working to take the fullest precautions for this event, including monitoring federal agency guidance related to the COVID-19 situation and working with state and local agencies to plan for a safe conference in San Antonio.
We understand the uncertainty you may have surrounding COVID-19 and that you may have questions specific to your situation. To assist you with information and focused resources, ASHT encourages you to follow updates issued by the U.S. Department of State, the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
ASHT will continue to monitor the changing situation and its potential impact on the upcoming conference and keep you updated.