The Private Practice Guide to Reopening After COVID-19
As we near the end of May, after many weeks of social distancing and self-quarantining, many states are now beginning to ease restrictions from COVID-19. But even after most businesses have reopened, it’s very likely the world we work in will never be the same.
You may have seen (or at least heard of) the CDC’s new guidelines for Opening America Up Again but what does this mean for your therapy practice? Many therapists are now finding themselves wondering, “Should I reopen my practice?” and “How can I safely reopen?”.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of safely reopening your therapy practice after COVID-19.
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Comply with Governmental Guidance
Even though the federal government outlined what the reopening of our country should look like after COVID-19, many governors have also begun outlining what they expect from reopening on a state-by-state basis.
Regularly check in with credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to stay informed of any major updates. Also, be sure to stay updated on your state’s guidelines and requirements in the following weeks/months.
Carefully Plan Your Reopening
Making the decision to reopen your practice for in-office therapy sessions is not one that should be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider and a list of tasks you’ll need to complete to ensure that all of the proper precautions are taken.
Develop your own set of guidelines and safety measures to ensure the safety of your clients, your employees, and yourself.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- In the beginning, it may be wise to reopen incrementally and work on a modified schedule for a period of time. Starting slowly with just a few in-office sessions a day will make it much easier to identify and address any unforeseen problems.
- Limit (or eliminate) any non-client visitors from entering the office. If you do this, be sure you’ve informed your clients of this prior to their appointment. It’s also a good idea to post this on the outside of your office door.
- Consider bringing your office employees back in alternating shifts. By scheduling them on alternating days of the week – or mornings versus afternoons – this will reduce contact between employees and significantly lower the chances of cross-contamination.
- Once you’ve started seeing clients in-office again, make sure you’re routinely cleaning all frequently touched surfaces throughout the day including desks, chairs, keyboards, mice, tabletops, and doorknobs. Make sure your staff knows what’s expected of them in this regard as well.
Clean, Clean, and Clean Some More
Before reopening your doors to the public, or even your own staff, it is highly recommended that you hire a professional cleaning service to do a full deep-clean of your entire office.
If you don’t want to spend the money on professional cleaners, you can also do this yourself. Just be prepared to spend a lot of time on it and don’t forget to factor in the cost of all those cleaning supplies.
After seeing how much went into keeping essential businesses clean during the stay-at-home order, people will now be expecting this from businesses that are reopening as well. For guidance on what will be expected, the CDC has created this set of recommendations on how cleaning should be done after COVID-19: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility.
Stock & Prep Every Room
For most therapists, your clients are already experiencing a certain level of heightened anxiety when they arrive at your office. This is generally due to the nature of their visit – the stressful event(s) that brought them in originally – but there’s certainly no sense in adding to that by making them wonder if their health is at risk as well.
Ease their minds by adjusting the placement of the furniture in your therapy room(s) so that your client is sitting at least 6 feet away from where you will be sitting.
If you have a large waiting area, place markings on the ground 6 feet apart where clients may line up, such as at the reception desk. At the same time, many offices are closing their waiting rooms all together until further notice. If you’re planning a slow reopen, it may be best to not utilize your waiting area at all for the time being.
Try to make sure these items are readily available in every room:
- Facial tissues
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfecting wipes & air spray
- No-touch trash cans
- Hand soap & disposable towels (at all sinks)
If you’d like, you can install temporary plex-glass shields at your front desk or even in front of your own therapy desk.
Finally, whether you’re requiring their use in your office or not, have face masks available for both clients and employees. If you will be requiring the use of face masks, make sure this is posted on your front door as well as throughout your office.
Let Your Clients Know
Once you’ve cleaned and disinfected every nook and cranny of your practice and prepped every room to promote everyone’s health and well-being, you’re ready to get the word out about your reopening!
Whether you post it to your website’s blog, send out an email newsletter, or share it on social media; it’s time to let your clients know when you’re going to reopen. Personally, we’d recommend doing all three :).
This part is crucial, though, in setting the proper expectations from both sides. Let clients know the date you’ll be reopening and what your new operating hours will be, explain the measures you’ve taken to ensure the safety of your office, and outline any new rules you plan to implement from here on out.
If you still plan to offer Telehealth sessions also, be sure to let clients know about this in the same announcement. There will be many people who have now become much more comfortable with this form of therapy now that they’ve experienced it firsthand.
The choice to reopen your private practice and begin seeing clients in-person is immensely personal, and should not be done without weighing the associated health risks it could pose to you and those around you. Many clinicians are choosing to continue seeing clients entirely online from here on out, and we encourage you to consider this. If you need help making the switch to telehealth, sign up for our free eCourses How to Transition to a Telehealth Practice and Marketing Your Telehealth Practice.
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