March 30, 2023 : Six Nebraska healthcare centers choose to move back to pre-pandemic years by making masks optional in their facilities starting April 3.
Boys Town, Methodist Health System, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Bryan Health, Madonna, and Nebraska Medicine all decided to stand together in this decision. CHI Health was modified on March 20th, 2023.
Mask provisions will still be in place for places requiring masks before the pandemic occured.
Lori Umberger, The Vice President of Operations at Boys Town National Research Hospital, told the healthcare facilities went through the pandemic jointly and wanted to move forward together. She believes the shift will be optimistic.
“I think we’re heading to see a lot more interaction with our with our patients,” Umberger communicated. “Even with the coworkers being able to witness each other’s faces and smiling and I think it’s going to be really useful.”
During a routine visit to their hospital, patients will still undergo health screenings and can ask their provider wear a mask despite the rule modification.
Boys Town Nurse Jamie Billerbeck told the change would help improve patient contact.
“Communicate that security and that relationship of seeing someone’s full face and its heading to be great communication with people who are hard of listening and coming in here for help with that,” Billerbeck expressed.
She said children are sometimes nervous around the masks, and hard-of-hearing patients cannot read lips with them on. While nurses adopted other communication strategies, the masks acted as a barrier in some forms.
“Not being able to speak medical history or plans that we were doing for preoperative effects, pain management, post-operative things like that,” Billerbeck displayed.
The anxiety of the unknown is gone now that covid has been about for a couple of years. Healthcare providers know how to control the virus.
“We are very comfortable with removing the mask, we’ll treat it just like any other extreme respiratory illness,” Umberger said. “Heretofore in the fall we had RSV, influenza and that was just as serious as Covid -19.”
Pushing forward, Umberger said they would continue to be aware of the long-term consequences of the virus.
Plunging in the pandemic, hospitals were affected by a lack of PPE, inadequate staffing, and an influx of patients. Now things have changed. Umberger sounded PPE is no longer an issue, but staffing problems prevail.
She said Boys Town persists to work toward staff retention by looking at salary and supplying a good work environment.