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March 24, 2020

3 ways to shut down the COVID-19 rumor mill

Daily Briefing

    As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, it's nearly impossible to avoid the onslaught of updates in the news, online, and in conversations with friends, family, and colleagues. The challenge is discerning between critical updates and the vast amount of misinformation out there.

    COVID-19 weekly webinar: What you need to know in 45 minutes

    Chances are that there are rumors circulating at your organization fueling staff uncertainty and anxiety. As a leader, one of the best things you can do for your team is to quickly surface and address rumors. 

    Below we've outlined three ways you can stop (or at least slow) the rumor mill and redirect your team to credible sources.

    3 ways you can proactively surface and address rumors

    1. Make COVID-19 a standing agenda item in existing meetings. Even if their team isn’t directly caring for COVID-19 patients, managers should use existing meetings to continue a dialogue about the disease and its implications for the organization. For example, consider reserving the first few minutes of each shift's unit huddle to discuss COVID-19 questions and concerns and share organization-wide updates.

    2. Don't forget to close the loop. If you receive questions you can't answer in the moment, elevate those questions to more senior leaders who may be less likely to know what's top of mind for staff. Make sure to give a preview of the ongoing work you’re doing to address your team’s concern—and when you have an answer to their question, follow-up.

    3. Nominate a department liaison to keep staff updated on organizational changes. As your organization's strategy evolves, it's hard to make sure staff are aware of changes and the thought process behind them. Nominate an experienced and trusted staff member to listen in on calls and virtual meetings and report information back to the department.

      Don't forget to
      include the night shift. However you decide to share information, make sure you account for staff who work outside of typical leadership hours. Confirm that department liaisons are able and willing to attend organization meetings, or set up additional sessions after hours.

    4. Dedicate a hotline or email for staff questions—then proactively share FAQs organization-wide. Launch a central inbox or hotline where staff can submit rumors or questions related to COVID-19. If you don't have the resources to manage a new channel, consider repurposing an existing frontline committee, such as a shared governance council, to surface questions and concerns. Then, at the end of the week, review the questions and send out an FAQ with responses to the most common questions.

    5. Don't forget to
      keep it simple. Staff are busier than ever, so share your updates in a skimmable, mobile-friendly format. Responses should take no longer than five minutes to read. One way to organize information is to explicitly list statements submitted by staff as "myth" or "fact."

    Direct your team to vetted COVID-19 resources

    In addition to addressing rumors as they arise, you can prevent rumors altogether by encouraging your team to turn to credible COVID-19 resources.

    Here are some of our go-to resources to share with your team: 

    • The CDC's tracker of US COVID-19 cases. The CDC regularly updates their tracker with newly confirmed cases, including a state-by-state breakdown.
    • The WHO's COVID-19 myth busters. This page clarifies common misconceptions about the virus, and includes downloadable graphics staff can post on their units.
    • Advisory Board's COVID-19 webinar series: What you need to know in 45 minutes. Sign up for our 45-minute Thursday webinars on the most recent, critical coronavirus developments for health care leaders.

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