Before you reopen your student clinics, consider if now is the time to have nervous students put hands on a vulnerable public during a global pandemic? These will not be simple plans to implement. Creating a new protocol, training your staff to a level of comfortability in that protocol, and then training your students to be successful at it will take some time.
Recommended changes to keep client and student therapists safe will permeate the entire process, from the appointment to the post-session sanitation. Here are some highlights from the recommended practice changes.
- Face masks utilized in treatment rooms to help prevent the spread of COVID-19; we encourage that the student therapist, the client, and any staff wear a face covering.
- Following stringent sanitation protocols between each client is critical. Use EPA-certified disinfectants on all surfaces, doorknobs, chairs, etc., that a client might have touched.
- Change all linens, blankets, and perhaps your clothes between each client. Use gloves where practical.
- Stagger client appointments or text them when they can come in so there is no more than one client at a time in common areas. Make sure you have ample time to prepare for, and take care of, each client and your work area before the next appointment.
- No longer allow walk-in clients. Too much production will need to go into proper appointment scheduling without the unknown variable of walk-ins. Appointment-only signage is appropriate for your student clinic storefront.
- Revise your clinic hours as appropriate to accommodate changes to your pre- and post-session protocols, as well as to eliminate the overlap of clients in your space. Leave 30 minutes between clients for hygiene and room sanitation protocols as well as personal re-set time, and stagger start times so no client arrivals or departures overlap. That time could be reduced if a cleaning crew was employed to help turn rooms.
- Consider a touchless pay system. If not possible, clean touch pad after each transaction with vendor-approved cleaning solutions. Move away from accepting cash and check for payments.
- Explore Healwell's free "Back to Practice Guidelines (in Practice)" online course, available at https://healwell.thinkific.com/courses/back-to-practice, to see how some of these private-practice recommendations might transfer to your school clinic environment. Although this course is delivered from one therapist to another in a home-practice setting, these best practices for pre-and post-session protocols, donning PPE, and disinfecting the massage table and treatment room may be useful for students to view as well.
Clinic Client Considerations
- Consider how you will put clients at ease when you reopen, explaining any reopening plans, new protocols, and new policies. Once finalized, add it to your website, prepare client emails, and create social media posts with similar messaging.
- Share an overview of your sanitation protocols with clients.
- Create a client education document reminding clients of best practices they can follow to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
- Cancellation policies and booking language should be adapted and updated on forms, website pages, and booking platforms. Here is some sample language:
- New Cancellation Policy sample language:
Amid the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19, we have modified our cancellation policy to offer greater flexibility to all our clients. We hope this will alleviate any stress and hesitation you have about an upcoming appointment. If you need to reschedule for whatever reason, and especially if you are not feeling well, we understand and request for you to please contact us as soon as possible to reschedule. To further support you, there will be no penalties for cancellations.
- New Booking Policy sample language:
Due to COVID-19, we are temporarily limiting the number of daily appointments. The health and safety of our clients and staff is very important to us. For this reason, walk-in appointments will not be accepted and clients who are not currently receiving a service will be asked to step out in order to control the number of people within the salon/spa/clinic. If you are experiencing a fever, cough, or sore throat, please reschedule your appointment for when you are no longer symptomatic. If you have been to a COVID-19-impacted area or have been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19, we ask that you please reschedule your appointment for 14 days past the date of contact. Please note, we are requesting that clients wear face coverings when they arrive for their appointments.
- New Cancellation Policy sample language:
- Watch this ABMP video with pathology expert Ruth Werner on how to do effective intake interviews.
- In accordance with extended shelter-in-place recommendations to protect more vulnerable populations, you may only be able to work with clients who are in lower risk categories for COVID-19 complications. Populations that are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 may have stricter and extended shelter-in-place recommendations. This includes clients who are 65 years and older, and those with conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and suppressed immune systems.
- Here is sample language if you have clients in these at-risk categories that need to wait a little longer before returning to see you: In accordance with extended shelter-in-place recommendations to protect our more vulnerable populations, we are not working with clients with compromised immune systems, clients aged 65 or above, or clients in other elevated at-risk categories at this time.
- Be transparent—in your reminder phone call, on your intake form, even when clients arrive for their appointment. Ask them: Have you had a fever in the last 24 hours of 100°F or above? Do you now, or have you recently had, any respiratory or flu symptoms, sore throat, or shortness of breath? Have you been in contact with anyone in the last 14 days who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has coronavirus-type symptoms? If they answer yes, then ask them to reschedule, without penalty.
- Set up a station for temperature checks for clients.
- Live your words—do the same that you ask of your clients. Let them know how you are feeling, and err on the side of caution. They are just as concerned as you are.
- Set expectations for your client; let them know there is a “new” normal in the clinic (e.g., limiting your “table talk”). Let them know safety is an important element of your therapy.
For best practices in client care and sanitation practices, please refer to the Pre-Session, In-Session, Post-Session Protocols and Post-Session Sanitation information.