March 18, 2020

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, on the importance of social distancing


Hi Everyone.

As we continue to confront the challenges of coronavirus, I want to talk about social distancing.  It’s something that’s new to most of us, and we need to lead by example.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD

Social distancing is one of the best ways we can reduce the spread of this virus. One way is to allow some of our employees to work from home. Policies have been placed on our COVID-19 website.

We are rolling this out in phases. Today, we are encouraging work from home across all of our non-clinical areas. Stay tuned… it’s possible that we may move to a mandatory phase soon.

Department chairs and leaders throughout VUMC will make the decisions about where you work. If you are asked to work from home …it is because we believe a significant portion of your work can be accomplished remotely. It still means you are critical to our success.

To ensure patients, and our care providers, continue to be safe, we are implementing social distancing practices in all of our workspaces, including where patients visit.  One example would be spacing between chairs in waiting areas. We are meticulous in our cleaning practices and continue to redouble our efforts every day. VUMC plays a special role in Middle Tennessee, as we care for adults and children with virtually all known health conditions. We are the only resource in our region for many patients.

Because of this, we are continuing to treat patients with a wide range of illnesses, including preventative care, while constantly monitoring to ensure our staffing and supplies are sufficient. The approach we are taking is prudent and is supported by the American Association for Medical Colleges.  Good prevention is the key to avoiding more serious consequences. By delaying care, we could put more people at risk and create more strain on our resources.

In addition to social distancing, another important way VUMC is providing leadership is through communication. There are nearly 30,000 of us working at VUMC, with our family members we approach 100,000.  So, our communication is not only critical— it amplifies throughout the region.

We are working hourly to provide the very best information to the leaders of our city, local companies, the public, and you. Beyond our COVID-19 Website, and daily MyVUMC announcements, today we launched vumc2go, a new app which is now dedicated to continuous COVID-19 updates. Please see MyVUMC for more details.

We are all human and these events can cause anxiety.  Our employee assistance program is nationally acclaimed and stands ready to support you. Please visit the Work/life connections EAP website for more information. Make sure you get help if you need it.

In addition, the employee assistance funds we provided after the tornado hit Nashville are being expanded to support employees with hardships due to COVID-19.

In the middle of the storm around us… we are all witnessing countless actions of commitment, kindness and courage.  Because of you, people in Middle TN are receiving safe and extraordinary care for all of their health needs, including COVID-19.

Thanks for your commitment to the health of our community.  We’ll talk again.