COVID-19 is presenting a number of challenges for our employees, and they are rising to the occasion by creating new and innovative ways to serve their patients.
Jehan Ellis, our childbirth education program coordinator, led an effort to bring her classes online so new parents don’t miss out on an opportunity for information and support.
The Center for Innovation is celebrating the efforts of Ellis and other innovators who are turning a difficult situation into new ways of providing exceptional care.
A pandemic stops many things: concerts, graduations, even the 2020 Summer Olympics. But it doesn’t stop the miracle of childbirth and the need to support new moms and dads.
That is the challenge COVID-19 presented to Jehan Ellis, Regional One Health’s childbirth education coordinator. Ellis offers a series of classes that teach parents about labor & delivery, newborn care, even breastfeeding and infant massage. Patients rely on the classes not only for information, but to ease their anxieties and empower them during an exciting yet scary time.
“Expectant moms are still seeing their provider, but they need education to decrease their stress and answer their questions – especially if they’re first-time moms,” Ellis said. “When we couldn’t hold classes due to social distancing, we felt it left them disenfranchised because they were deprived of the knowledge they need to create a positive birth experience.”
Ellis already knew the material she had worked well for her patients. The question she needed to answer was, “What if we found a new way to deliver it?”
The answer came in the form of a camera-equipped laptop and the WebEx app, which lets Ellis communicate live and share PowerPoints, videos, demonstrations, etc.
With help from Regional One Health’s IT Department and some adjustments to her presentations, she quickly developed a new free virtual childbirth education program, the first of its kind in Memphis.
It’s the sort of problem-solving that drives Regional One Health’s Center for Innovation, led by Director Alejandra Alvarez. She noted medicine is by nature a high-touch, face-to-face environment, but employees throughout the health care system have responded to COVID-19 by finding creative ways to serve their patients while still protecting them via social distancing.
“COVID-19 has created a lot of limitations, but it has also been a time when we’ve seen a lot of creative thinking and problem-solving,” she said. “By asking, ‘What if?’ and then taking charge and executing, our employees are being agile, solving problems and challenging the status quo – and they’re finding these new ways of doing things have applications well past the pandemic.”
That is true for Ellis, who said the online classes are working well. “Our patients can still see me demonstrate things, and I can provide written and video content and answer their questions,” she said. “Some people understand by listening, some by reading, some are visual. My in-person classes encompass all those teaching styles, and I can still do that with WebEx.”
Even as she looks forward to a day where she can meet with new moms face to face, she plans to maintain and even expand online options.
Before the pandemic, patients could face obstacles to attending live classes, like work, lack of transportation, not feeling well, etc. Giving them a chance to learn remotely will keep more women engaged, which is good for everyone – Ellis said providers say patients who take part in the childbirth education program are often calmer and have a more positive birth experience.
“We don’t know what the future holds in terms of COVID-19, but we know this is something that will be sustainable from this point on,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll get back to normal, but if we hit a COVID-19 surge or even a bad flu season, we’ll have the online classes ready to go.”
Ellis said her next goal is to create a digital tour so patients can see the labor & delivery rooms and postpartum facility – another project that will be an asset with or without the pandemic. “Patients feel more relaxed when they can visualize where they’re going to be. It can encourage more patients to choose Regional One Health for their delivery,” she said.
The chance to explore online options is a silver lining to a tough situation, as it lets Ellis expand on her mission of compassion and empathy for all new moms. Classes are free for all women, regardless of where they deliver, and Ellis is glad to be able to continue to provide that service.
“This is a stressful time for pregnant patients. They’re worried about the virus. They can’t see their family. They aren’t sure if they’ll be able to have people in their home to support them after the baby is born. They can only have one support person during labor,” she said.
“This is a way we can let them know we’re here for them.”