In the Chronicle’s April 2020 edition, we featured local health care workers who discussed how COVID affected their everyday work and home lives. Among them was Tiffany Victor Castleberry, a Flossmoor resident who worked as an administrator for University of Illinois Hospital.
After our article, Castleberry completed a doctorate of nursing degree and was recruited by Stanford Health Care in California to serve as Executive Director of Social Work and Case Management. We asked her to reflect on this transition and the nationwide health staffing shortage.
It might feel like the pandemic is going away, but hospitals continue to feel the weight of two years spent fighting COVID-19. In many instances, they’re getting back on their feet while also managing high worker attrition, said Tiffany Victor Castleberry.
Castleberry speaks from her new vantage point as Executive Director of Social Work and Case Management at Stanford Health Care in California, while also maintaining communication with administrators at Chicago-area hospital systems.
The health care landscape changed dramatically during COVID, she said, with the departure of many experienced, senior-level workers. People shouldn’t be surprised, Castleberry said, and can’t hold it against the workers who took early retirement or pivoted to other professions.
“There has definitely been a major shift in health care and the sustainability of the number of folks who are willing to stay, because of the pressure, variability and increased demands,” she said.
“There hasn’t been a day when there hasn’t been an ‘ask’ added. How can we deliver great care, but exponentially better, with the same or less resources?”
In Castleberry’s new role, she has been tasked with helping COVID-19 patients transition to long-term care or life at home. However, while a patient may be well enough to be discharged, other issues may delay the process.
“So we ask ourselves, ‘How the heck do we get these COVID patients out of the hospital?’” Castleberry said. “Many of them are uninsured, underinsured, or cannot be repatriated back to their homeland. Sometimes we’re waiting for authorization of medication by insurance. If we have all these barriers to contend with, it’s going to be a long stay.”
If patients are discharged without proper support, they’re more likely to end up back in the hospital. One major goal is to avoid this readmittance, so Castleberry’s department manages ways to support patients’ continuing recovery.
Though leaving Flossmoor was difficult, Castleberry said she enjoys using the expertise she developed in Chicago to benefit a new community.
“With my skillset and knowledge, I’m utilizing what I’ve done in Chicago to bring a different viewpoint to the work in California,” she said. “It was a challenge to leave Flossmoor, though. We love Flossmoor and our friends there.”