3 Ways to Proactively Prepare
for Patient Surges

Unexpected patient surges in the Emergency Department have a unique and outsized ability to disrupt an entire hospital. Chaos in the ED leads to patients boarding in hallways, staff called in on their day off, other units scrambling to assist and cover, and even patients leaving without being seen.

Top 3 mistakes in effectively managing surges:


Lack of hospital-wide mitigation strategiesMitigation plans focus solely on the ED because it is still the hottest spot during a patient surge.


Disjointed discharge processesIneffective discharge planning processes are a major contributor to boarding, leaving both ED and perioperative leadership in a panic.


Ineffective staffing practicesSurges result in last-minute call-ins and staff transfers to the ED as temporary support, which are time consuming, disruptive, and costly.

How to improve the management of inpatient operations:


Provide awareness of the situationEnable leaders and front-line managers with advanced awareness of potential capacity issues, giving them time to enact appropriate mitigation plans.


Prioritize discharges and transfersBreaking down barriers in the discharge and transfer management process throughout a hospital will help make capacity available to incoming demand.


Ensure adequate staffingProactively balance nursing staff across the health system to avoid the last-minute scramble of assigning float staff and shifting nurses away from their core units.