University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said there have been lessons learned one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. In Arkansas, there have been more than 5,400 deaths and over 325,000 identified coronavirus cases.
Patterson said it’s put a huge strain on the state’s healthcare system and made the year “seem like a decade.” That said, UAMS and other healthcare providers adapted to the huge influx of patients. He’s proud of the response, and he anticipates it won’t be the last time a plan for a pandemic is needed.
“There is a lot of our playbook that we have run over the past 365 days that we would run again. Our team at UAMS and frankly, the whole healthcare system across the state really coalesced around solving this problem,” Patterson said in a Talk Business & Politics interview. “If I think about what we would do differently, how we would prepare for the next time this comes up, we didn’t have the playbook on the shelves. We had to put together the plays as we went along, and I know that in preparation for the next pandemic that we have – and inevitably we will have one – we will be better prepared.”
One of the major takeaways Patterson said will be important to improve upon is how to ensure quality information is not overrun by poor information.
“We’ve all learned how powerful messaging education is, not only for the public, but for the policymaking contingent. Getting facts out, making sure that people are getting correct information is so important. And we’ve seen the unfortunate power of misinformation over the course of the past year,” he said.
Patterson not only worries about the toll the COVID-19 pandemic took on citizens, but he’s concerned about the state’s healthcare workforce.
“First of all, let’s take a minute and reflect on the fact that many healthcare workers died in the course of this pandemic through contact with patients that they were caring for,” he said.
Patterson said the passion healthcare workers found in responding to the pandemic was also coupled with the burnout that affected many.
“We’re having the opportunity to do exactly what we spent our lives training to do, and it’s enormously exhausting and frustrating. We’re going to have a lot of recovery to do for people who’ve been stressed out, who’ve been traumatized, who are having second thoughts about their careers, and whose family lives have been disrupted while they have been in hospitals taking care of patients,” Patterson said. “Healthcare workers are going to need time and space to recover.”
“Also, we’re not going back to normal. There’s no going back to one year and one day ago. We are always going to be beholden to protective equipment. We’re going to use it much more wisely and demand that it is available,” he added. “Healthcare workers are going to manage patients with respiratory illnesses differently than they have in the past. The days when you came to work sick, that will no longer seem like you are putting yourself first, it will seem like you’re being selfish and disrespectful. So a lot of the healthcare space will change and this will directly affect many, many healthcare workers in profound ways.”
You can watch Dr. Patterson’s full interview in the video below.