Creating a Safety Officer Program to Enhance Staff Safety during the Care of COVID-19 Patients

Carrie L. Billman, Jade Flinn, Avinash Gadala, Chad Bowman, Taylor McIlquham, Christopher J. Sulmonte, Brian T. Garibaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Staff safety is paramount when managing an infectious disease event. However, early data from the COVID-19 pandemic suggested that staff compliance with personal protective equipment and other safety protocols was poor. In response to patient surges, many hospitals created dedicated "biomode"units to provide care for patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. To enhance staff safety on biomode units and during patient transports, our hospital created a safety officer/transport safety officer (SO/TSO) program. The first SOs/TSOs were nurses, clinical technicians, and other support staff who were redeployed from their home units when the units closed during the initial surge. During subsequent COVID-19 surges, dedicated SOs/TSOs were hired to maintain the program. SOs/TSOs provided just-in-Time personal protective equipment training and helped staff safely enter and exit COVID-19 clinical units. SOs/TSOs participated in the transport of over 1,000 COVID-19 patients with no safety incidents reported. SOs/TSOs conducted safety audits throughout the hospital and observed 86% compliance with COVID-19 precautions across 32,500 activities. During contact tracing of frontline staff who became infected with SARS-CoV-2, potential deviations from COVID-19 precautions were identified in only 7.7% of cases. The SO/TSO program contributed to a culture of safety in the biomode units and helped to enhance infection prevention throughout the hospital. This program can serve as a model for other health systems during the response to the current pandemic and during future infectious disease threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S54-S59
JournalHealth Security
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • Biocontainment
  • Covid-19
  • Infectious disease transport
  • Staff safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Safety Research


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