Plan to have a double back-up system in place ensuring that if staff members are sick, there is an easy system to call in relief without having to scramble. This system also protects against staff members feeling remorse or hesitance about calling in sick and contributing to dangerous “presenteeism” (coming to work sick).


  • Canceling communal food in meetings/care areas, and moving towards tele-education/meetings online.
  • Updating staff flu shots
  • Requiring use of scrubs instead of personal clothes to work, and encouraging minimization of jewelry/personal items as fomites.
  • Gel-in/Gel-out hand hygiene; redouble efforts to ensure 100% compliance for all patients.
  • A hospital-wide plan for back-up childcare so nurses/physicians are not staying home to care for their children when schools are closed.


Arrange in-person Donning/Doffing training by “super-trainers” for all ICU/ED/Radiology staff. Once an airway plan has been established, use simulation training to get staff comfortable with new procedures and protocols (eg. intubating using the glidescope while in a PAPR with a shroud).


A process for accepting outside transfers should be developed that includes Department of Health, hospital administration, infection control, and the intensivist.

  • Anticipate and build protocols after discussing risks and benefits of different models for patient movement.

  • Operationalize telemedicine to support critical care in lower resource hospitals.

  • Weigh benefits of differing models of cohorting patients at COVID hospitals vs spreading burden of intensive care among many hospitals.

  • Determine thresholds for transfer of a patient to a large urban hospital, e.g., no intensive care unit, over capacity (ventilators, beds, staff shortage).

If your center is a receiving center for stroke,trauma, etc transfers, ensure that there are COVID-19 screening questions being asked by all accepting physicians/services (eg. trauma, stroke physicians accepting patients should screen).


Partner with palliative care or other teams to develop plans to address goals of care early. Develop talking points for clinicians.


Develop processes around implementation of crisis standards of care. In the face of limited resources (e.g., ventilators, ICU beds, staff, etc.), the process of allocating these resources should be based on a utilitarian framework, often stated as providing the greatest good for the greatest number.

Initially, focus on building capacity, conserving existing resources, and reallocating and redistributing resources. If crucial resources truly become so scarce that they need to be allocated on a case-by-case basis, consider developing multi-professional teams, which may include clinical ethicists and community members, to assist.

  • Note: the UW system is not currently functioning at crisis standards of care.


Facilitate coordination among ECMO centers in your region to establish communication methods for patient referral and distribution as well as unified inclusion and exclusion criteria. Develop clear criteria for ECMO initiation that are tied to hospital and ECMO program capacity, i.e., use narrower inclusion criteria when the system becomes saturated to select only those with the highest chance of survival.. If patients require transfer from low resource hospitals, consider triaging potential ECMO candidate patients (young, otherwise healthy, single organ failure) to large urban ECMO centers. This may decrease the frequency of patient transports for eventual ECMO referral.

Consider how mobile ECMO retrieval teams may be used to maximize ICU care at referral facilities. Once patients have failed conventional hypoxemia therapies, they may be too unstable for transport without ECMO. Coordinate with neighboring ECMO centers to exchange experience and knowledge, and potentially develop care guidelines for this patient population.

ELSO Guidelines:


A dedicated plan for response to clinical emergencies should be created for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The plan should include: limiting responding personnel, ensuring isolation precautions are maintained, and limiting aerosolizing procedure.

Consider appointing dedicated isolation “captain” to ensure only essential staff enter the room, appropriate PPE are used, and equipment is decontaminated appropriately. The plan should include early discussions about “do not resuscitate” status with next of kin for critically ill infected patients.


(With our radiology colleagues, we have developed a process to perform portable radiographs through the door window for patients in isolation, reducing risk to staff and need for cleaning of the portable units.)


Assess methods of portable one-view chest X-ray through a door (eg. Patient/nurse holds plate, or it is slid between back/stretcher, and film is shot through the door from the ante-chamber of the negative pressure room to minimize X-ray staff exposure to patients. Film cover wiped with bleach wipes by RN in the room before handing into ante-chamber.

Radiology teams from our institution have minimized staff and equipment exposure by performing single-view portable radiographs through the windows on doors to isolation rooms.

  • The patient is positioned standing or sitting in front of the door inside the isolation room with a nurse/staff wearing a lead shield, holding the plate to the patient’s chest.
  • The portable machine camera is brought close to the glass, and adjustments are made to the machine to optimize the film.
  • The film is passed by the gowned nurse outside the room with removal of the plastic sheet while passing to the X-ray staff outside the room, keeping the plate clean.
  • While artifact from the window is sometimes present on the film, our radiologists have been able to read from these for multi-focal pneumonia and tube placement.

For more detailed information on Portable Radiography, see our COVID-19 Patient Portable Chest X-Ray Protocol.

See images below:

university of washington school of medicine department of emergency medicine



Review the current system or create a new one for tracking exposures/symptoms when a COVID-19 exposure happens for staff, or when staff members are sick.  Our Infection Control works closely with Employee Health to deploy contact tracing and counseling on specific high risk exposures.  Specific questions to consider regarding employee exposures include:

  • When will they return to work?

  • How will they get results of their testing?


  • Plan ahead for blood draws, EKGs, and medication administration in order to minimize trips into and out of the patient’s room.
  • Build kits with pre-assembled supplies to be used in isolation areas.
  • Create scripts for 911 call centers to ask about COVID-19 risk factors before sending in EMS to a scene.
  • Have EMS call ahead to alert ED for high risk COVID-19 patients from the field.
  • Develop scripts for your transfer center to use screening questions regarding symptoms and COVID-19 status with the goal of identifying potential COVID-19 patients prior to ED arrival.
  • Establish protocols for testing patients in conjunction with your lab’s ability to run these tests.
  • Draft outward facing documents with clear instructions for the community to call their doctor prior to coming to the ED to reduce over-crowding.
  • See UW Medicine Guidelines for:

    • UW Medicine Testing Approach.

    • ED Risk Assessment

    • ICU Care Guidelines.

    • UW ID Treatment Guidelines.


UW Medicine COVID-19 Resource Site

See UW Medicine COVID-19 Resource Site for more screening and testing algorithms, policy statements, and additional links.


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