The COVID-19 pandemic has lowered our facility’s census by nearly 20%. What can the nursing department do to improve our census?

Many facilities have experienced census declines. Fewer elective surgeries means fewer admissions for post-operative care. That, coupled with concerns about facility-transmitted COVID-19, has dissuaded many who otherwise would have sought skilled nursing care. Here are four ways the nursing department can help rebuild the census:

Prioritize infection control. Educate on proper infection control and track improvements. After providing training on infection control precautions, monitor performance and use the data to demonstrate specific improvements to referral sources. For example, track staff compliance with proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and highlight improvements post-education. 

Reduce facility-acquired infections. Sepsis remains a top reason for hospital readmissions. Facilities that demonstrate low or no infections are more attractive partners in the value-based care landscape. To achieve this, you must make accurate and timely assessment a priority. 

Specialize. While this may require infrastructure changes, facilities that provide high-quality care in a specific area are valuable to discharging entities. Some ideas include stroke care, respiratory care or other medically complex specialties that offer value. 

Don’t hold patients who are ready for the next discharge level. When census is low, there is incentive to keep patients, but this is unattractive to insurers and health systems using alternative payment models. Extending patient stays also hinders SNF quality measures. Instead, plan for discharge from admission and don’t let the overall census number alter the plan.