Adaptability on Shifting Ground: a Rapid Qualitative Assessment of Multi-institutional Inpatient Surge Planning and Workforce Deployment During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Angela Keniston*, Matthew Sakumoto, Gopi J. Astik, Andrew Auerbach, Shaker M. Eid, Kirsten N. Kangelaris, Shradha A. Kulkarni, Tiffany Lee, Luci K. Leykum, Anne S. Linker, Devin T. Worster, Marisha Burden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: During the initial wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations, care delivery and workforce adaptations were rapidly implemented. In response to subsequent surges of patients, institutions have deployed, modified, and/or discontinued their workforce plans. Objective: Using rapid qualitative methods, we sought to explore hospitalists’ experiences with workforce deployment, types of clinicians deployed, and challenges encountered with subsequent iterations of surge planning during the COVID-19 pandemic across a collaborative of hospital medicine groups. Approach: Using rapid qualitative methods, focus groups were conducted in partnership with the Hospital Medicine Reengineering Network (HOMERuN). We interviewed physicians, advanced practice providers (APP), and physician researchers about (1) ongoing adaptations to the workforce as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, (2) current struggles with workforce planning, and (3) evolution of workforce planning. Key Results: We conducted five focus groups with 33 individuals from 24 institutions, representing 52% of HOMERuN sites. A variety of adaptations was described by participants, some common across institutions and others specific to the institution’s location and context. Adaptations implemented shifted from the first waves of COVID patients to subsequent waves. Three global themes also emerged: (1) adaptability and comfort with dynamic change, (2) the importance of the unique hospitalist skillset for effective surge planning and redeployment, and (3) the lack of universal solutions. Conclusions: Hospital workforce adaptations to the COVID pandemic continued to evolve. While few approaches were universally effective in managing surges of patients, and successful adaptations were highly context dependent, the ability to navigate a complex system, adaptability, and comfort in a chaotic, dynamic environment were themes considered most critical to successful surge management. However, resource constraints and sustained high workload levels raised issues of burnout.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3956-3964
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number15
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • COVID-19
  • focus groups
  • hospital medicine
  • qualitative
  • surge planning
  • workforce planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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