Bill McGinley

Covid vaccines have provided the light at the end of the tunnel that we have been waiting for. Everyone cannot wait to “return to normal.” Not that “normal” was a day at the beach for those of us in long term care.

Already some large nursing home companies have declared the pandemic is over and it is time to focus on census building once again. Slow your roll, I say.

For many nursing home administrators and other long term care leaders, this has been the hardest year of their careers. A year on from the start of the pandemic, many have not even had a day off or been able to take a vacation. What was a 24/7 job to begin with became a 24/7 job on steroids.

We need a break. We need to stop and catch our breath before we try to return to normal. Consider just the number of deaths we have experienced. Death became routine. In our business, we come to expect death as part of life. But we don’t usually expect it to visit our employees and their families. Many employees and more than a few administrators died from the virus.  

Before we try to move on, we need to take time to acknowledge those we have lost to COVID-19. We need to grieve. We have been under a lot of emotional and sometimes physical stress. Grief is necessary to allow our brains to recuperate after this experience. We need to come to terms with our emotions and the reality of our situation.

I suggest a formal process for this. Hold a memorial service. Get the entire team together to acknowledge what they have been through. Remember those that have been taken from us. Say their names. Have a group hug.

Unless we stop to remember there will be no return to normal.

Bill McGinley, CNHA, is president and CEO of the American College of Health Care Administrators.