Trending Topics

How to set yourself up for shift success

When working from home isn’t an option, follow these 6 steps to prepare for a safe shift


For first responders and other essential healthcare providers, for whom working from home is not an option, there are several strategies they can employ to set themselves up for success before you head into work.

Photo/Getty Images

The CDC and medical centers around the U.S. have recommended that Americans practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country. For most people, the easiest way to achieve this is to just stay home. No more restaurants, bars, libraries, shopping malls, movie theaters, etc., and – for many people – working at home to reduce exposure.

For first responders and essential healthcare providers, however, that’s just not possible. Here are 6 strategies to set yourself up for success before you head into work.

1. Pack light

Remember than many of the items you take from work may touch surfaces that could be exposed to COVID-19. We know that this virus can live on some surfaces for up to 2-3 days, so avoid exposing as many of your personal items as possible by leaving unnecessary things at home. Leave your wallet at home, and bring your driver’s license, credit card and/or cash in a plastic bag to take to work with you.

2. Pack extra

While you should leave home non-essential belongings, to avoid interacting with additional people unnecessarily or traveling to additional areas if nearby restaurants are closed, bring the food and beverages you will need for your shift. Pack a bag that is washable, either in the washing machine or by wiping it down with COVID-19-effective cleaning wipes, so that you can clean it out as soon as you get home.

3. Lose the ring, jewelry, and any watches that aren’t waterproof

Your ring, bracelets, earrings and watch are all surfaces that can bring home virus particles and spread them around your house when you unconsciously remove them at home after a shift. Instead, leave them at home to begin with. If you need a watch, as many EMS providers do, leave the leather watch at home and opt for a band that can stand the task of being wiped down or washed with soapy water at the end of the shift.

4. Put your phone in a plastic bag

This will allow you to still use your phone throughout your shift without contaminating it. You should still wipe down the outside of the plastic bag regularly throughout your shift, however, your phone will remain protected.

5. Put on your work shoes at the door

While many of us already leave our work shoes at the door, if you don’t, now is the time to start. Right before you head out the door, slip on those work shoes and head out. If you forget something, don’t forget to take off the shoes to avoid tracking any of the germs and other dirty things that our shoes pick up during a shift in the field.

6. Start your shift out fresh

When you get to work, start the shift off right. Secure your belongings, wash your hands, and then wipe down your work surfaces. In the ambulance, start up front and work your way to the back, wiping down any surfaces you regularly touch. It can be helpful to do this as you go through your equipment checks as well, ensuring that any of those surfaces that you come into contact with are clean.

Read next: How can I protect my family from COVID-19?

Emily Pearce, BS, EMT-P, FAWM, DiMM is a paramedic and third-year medical student at the University of New Mexico. Emily has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and has been involved in EMS since 2008. She has worked as an EMT-Basic in rural Virginia, a search and rescue paramedic for the National Park Service in Grand Canyon National Park, and a prehospital educator and researcher at UNM.