Thursday, Apr. 23rd, 2020

MSU Extension discusses the process of writing a will

Writing a will or thinking about doing so is a normal and reasonable response in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Montana State University Extension specialist.

Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension family economics specialist, has collected information about the process and Montana law for people interested in getting started with creating a will.

A will is a written document that describes how property is distributed after a person’s death. By making a will, people can decide for themselves who receives their property, how much each beneficiary receives, when they will own the property, and, to some degree, what they can do with it. In the absence of a will, Montana law determines how your property is distributed. A will only becomes binding upon death and after being validated by a district court.

Goetting said there are a few ways to write a will. One is a “holographic” will, one that an individual can create themselves in their own handwriting. Such a will can be valid if the signature and the material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator, the legal term for a person whose will is being written. Self-made wills, however, frequently increase costs and trouble for heirs, said Goetting. The validity of a handwritten will can be questioned due to errors and legal interpretation that conflicts with the testator’s intentions.

“In most cases, an attorney can advise and assist you in drafting a will that best suits your needs,” Goetting said. “You want an adviser to avoid the legal pitfalls that can result from a ‘do-it-yourself’ will from a computer software program sold on the web. Avoid relying on the advice of untrained relatives or friends who are not current on Montana laws about wills.”

Attorney fees for help making a will vary, depending on the size of the estate and the complexity of the will. Goetting urged people to always ask an attorney for an estimate of the cost, preferably at the first meeting.

An attorney can make a will “self-proved.” That means a statement is added noting that the testator and witnesses signed and acknowledged the document as genuine. That way, when the will is submitted for probate, witnesses do not have to be present to testify whether the testator was of sound mind when the will was signed.

Goetting recommends storing a will in a safe place, such as with a bank, trust company or the attorney who drafted it.

Montana law also allows a will to be stored with a district court. Individuals can contact the clerk of court in their county for the correct procedure. The testator, or a person they’ve authorized, can pick up the will for the purposes of changing or destroying it. Goetting said careful consideration should be given to storing wills in a jointly owned safe deposit box since multiple people would have access.

Goetting also noted that a will may not control all of a person’s property. If that property is owned by two or more people in joint tenancy with “right of survivorship,” after one owner dies it will be owned by the survivor or survivors — even if the will says otherwise. Proceeds from assets where a beneficiary is named — such as insurance policies; pension funds; U.S. savings bonds; payable-on-death financial accounts; transfer-on-death registrations on stocks, bonds and mutual funds; and transfer-on-death deeds on real property — also cannot be controlled by a will. 

“A will is a written plan to make sure your property and assets are distributed the way you want after your death,” Goetting said. “Your will is the blueprint that guides the district court in the distribution of your estate. Write one now before it’s too late.”

For more information, request the MontGuide about wills from a local MSU County Extension or Reservation agent, or download the PDF at www.msuextension.org/publications/FamilyFinancialManagement/.

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Wednesday, Apr. 22nd, 2020

National Television Series ‘tasteMAKERS’ Launches Digital Marketplace to Help Artisan Makers Remain Resilient in the Face of Covid-19

 ST. LOUIS, MO — “Stay home.” “Small businesses are in trouble.” “Is it safe to go to the grocery store?” Each day the pandemic continues, small food businesses are struggling. In an effort to help support small-batch makers and farmers, tasteMAKERS, a docu-style food-focused public television series that airs on stations nationwide, is launching Makers Marketplace, a new online shop filled with artisan products. From Montana, we have Treeline Coffee from Bozeman.

The shop will launch on Wed., April 22 at noon EST at wearetastemakers.com

“When we sat down to talk about how we could have a positive impact on artisans and makers across the country during this unprecedented time, launching a marketplace so that food lovers could access their products directly was the best way that we could think of to help support them,” tasteMAKERS host and producer Cat Neville said in an announcement posted on Instagram on Monday, April 20.
 
Wednesday’s launch will include a variety of products from a growing list of over 30 vendors. Product categories include coffee, dairy, pickles and ferments, natural sweeteners and honey, fresh and dried fruits, seafood and more. Some vendors, like Atlantic Sea Farms in Maine or Oliver Farm Artisan Oils in Georgia, have been featured in episodes of the show. Others, like Phoenix’s Iconic Cocktail Co. or Seattle’s Haxan Hot Sauce, participated in tasteMAKERS’ event series, Meet The Makers. Over the next few months, tasteMAKERS will expand the Makers Marketplace to include artisans from every corner of the country. 
 
Makers Marketplace will be enhanced by tasteMAKERS’ focus on storytelling. Through feature profiles, shoppers will learn about the people who are making the products and the story behind the food itself. Shoppers will also have access to a library of recipes and cooking videos as well as weekly product highlights which will detail new and noteworthy items in the shop. 
 
“All of the artisans who are selling their products on our site have a unique story — one that we want to share,” Neville said. “Colorado-based distillery Jack Rabbit Hill Farms essentially lost its business overnight when restaurants closed because of coronavirus. They were forced to get creative. What did they do? They repurposed their resources and made CapRock Hand Sanitizer, which can be purchased on our marketplace.”
 
In order to become a vendor, businesses must simply be a part of the #MakersMovement. If you or an artisan you know would like to become a vendor, please email nicole@watchtastemakers.com.
 
tasteMAKERS airs nationally, reaching over 94% of American television households on public television stations as well as the Create channel. Visit https://www.watchtastemakers.com
to stream full episodes, shop the marketplace, access recipes, peruse photos and find additional information about the show. For air dates, visit pbs.org/stations

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Tuesday, Apr. 21st, 2020

Rocky Mountain Bank Contributes $100,000 for COVID-19 Community Relief Efforts

Rocky Mountain Bank announced today it will commit $100,000 to support four local community initiatives related to Montana’s COVID-19 crisis. The Billings-based bank will make significant contributions to the Billings Food Bank, HRDC, Flathead Food Bank, and Family Promise of Gallatin Valley.  This latest community outreach follows earlier announcements about the bank’s comprehensive COVID-19 response measures centered around financial relief for clients and employee safety.

“This is an unprecedented time for families and businesses across Montana,” expressed Tod Petersen, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain Bank. “Our employees, clients, and community continue to come together to help one another during this crisis. It has reinforced how fortunate we are to live and work in Montana. On behalf of our amazing team at Rocky Mountain Bank, I am proud to support these important community relief efforts.”

As the COVID-19 crisis persists, the demand for emergency meal services, shelter services, and related hardship services continues to surge. Rocky Mountain Bank has focused its contribution to support these growing needs.

Contribution funds will be allocated to the following causes:

$40,000 for Billings Food Bank
Rocky Mountain Bank will contribute $40,000 to the Billings Food Bank. The organization provides more than 14 million pounds of food to local residents needing assistance every year.  It also helps distribute blankets, quilts, hygiene kits, student lunches, and other essentials across the region. The nonprofit also operates the Fortin Café & Gift Shop and the Fortin Culinary Training Center. More information is at https://billingsfoodbank.com/.

“The Billings Food Bank is so appreciative of Rocky Mountain Bank’s gift during this unique time in our collective history,” commented Sheryle Shandy, CEO of the Billings Food Bank. “Your faith in us is will be long remembered.  Thank you so much.”

$30,000 for HRDC
HRDC will receive $30,000 from Rocky Mountain Bank. The nonprofit operates the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, Big Sky Community Food Bank, and Headwaters Area Food Bank. It also runs Bozeman’s Fork and Spoon, an innovative pay-what-you-can café, and the Warming Center for the Homeless. Additionally, the group leads a series of other initiatives centered on housing, community transportation, senior empowerment, youth development, and more. More information is at http://www.thehrdc.org/.

"While HRDC's mission has not changed, how we meet that mission is constantly evolving in this challenging time,” explained Heather Grenier, president/CEO of HRDC. “This support will enable us to ensure nobody goes to bed hungry, everyone has a safe, warm place to shelter in place and our elderly have the essential items they need to remain safe at home.  We continue to be humbled by the generosity of this community and the support for our neighbors in need."


$20,000 for Flathead Food Bank
Rocky Mountain Bank will provide $20,000 to the Flathead Food Bank. The organization provides food services to disadvantaged individuals and families across the Kalispell region. The organization’s key programs include its main Kalispell pantry, mobile pantry service, student backpack lunch program, and its commodity supplemental food program. More information is at http://flatheadfoodbank.org/.

“Thank you Rocky Mountain Bank for this amazing blessing so we can feed not only Flathead County but Northwest Montana and all of those struggling during our global crisis, expressed Jamie Quinn, executive director for Flathead Food Bank. “Your support will help us to get food to children out of school, senior citizens sheltering in place, people laid off during a difficult period in their lives, and so many others.”

$10,000 for Family Promise of Gallatin Valley
Rocky Mountain Bank will contribute $10,000 to Family Promise of Gallatin Valley. The nonprofit works with a large base of local volunteers to provide shelter, meals, job training, and other necessities to bring lasting solutions to families in need. More information is at http://www.familypromisegv.org/.

"Imagine being told to shelter in place and homeschool your children, when you don't have a home to go to,” asked Christel Chvilicek, executive director of Family Promise of Gallatin Valley. “The support from Rocky Mountain Bank during this pandemic will ensure we can continue to support our most at risk population in Gallatin Valley. We can't thank them enough for the support."


Rocky Mountain Bank Part of $1.2 Million Community Outreach Initiative
Heartland Financial USA, Inc., the holding company of Rocky Mountain Bank and 10 other regional banks across the United States, is contributing a total of $1.2 million to COVID-19 community relief programs.  The outreach is directed at supporting families and businesses across 12 states impacted by the crisis.

Banking Client Relief Actions
Since the beginning of the crisis, Rocky Mountain Bank has enacted a multitude of programs aimed at providing financial relief for consumer, small business, and commercial clients. As an SBA-certified lender, Rocky Mountain Bank is also working with business clients to utilize available CARES Act funding, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and other programs.  Please visit our COVID-19 resource center on our website for frequent updates.

Keeping Our Employee Team Safe
Rocky Mountain Bank continues to adapt our operations to the evolving environment. This has included having much of our workforce working remotely from home, modifying bank lobby access, restricting employee travel and group meetings, and intensifying the cleaning regiments of all our locations. Rocky Mountain Bank has also implemented a premium pay increase of 20% for its hourly customer-facing bank branch employees and customer service representatives in our call centers.  The bank has also committed to cover all COVID-19 related testing and treatment costs for its primary healthcare plan participants.  

About Rocky Mountain Bank
Rocky Mountain Bank, a subsidiary of Heartland Financial USA, Inc., (NASDAQ: HTLF), is a state-chartered, community-invested bank with more than $528 million in assets. Headquartered in Billings, Montana, the bank also has offices in Bigfork, Bozeman, Kalispell, Plains, Plentywood, Stevensville and Whitehall. With a focus on business and personal lending, and deposit services, they are dedicated to making Great Things Happen! for their customers. For more information, visit www.rmbank.com. Rocky Mountain Bank is a member of the FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender.

About Heartland Financial USA, Inc.
Heartland Financial USA, Inc. is a diversified financial services company with assets of $13.2 billion. The company provides banking, mortgage, private client, investment and insurance services to individuals and businesses. Heartland currently has 114 banking locations serving 83 communities in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and California. Additional information about Heartland Financial USA, Inc. is available at www.htlf.com.

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After a decade, waste management at MSU is more efficient than ever

The determination of a few students helped jumpstart Montana State University’s waste management and recycling program. In fact, MSU’s Office of Sustainability may not have existed without them.

“At the beginning, it was all student-funded and student-driven,” said MSU sustainability director Kristin Blackler, who came on board in 2013 when the Office of Sustainability was created. “When I got here, I saw such dedication from students that it almost brought tears to my eyes.”

In 2009, the MSU student body proposed, voted on and approved a sustainability fee of $3.50 per semester to fund a recycling program on campus. Student employees and a part-time staff member collected recycling around campus each week, and the university had a diversion rate of 2.5%.

Diversion rate, said Blackler, is the percentage of MSU’s total waste, by weight, that doesn’t end up in a landfill. The Office of Sustainability’s goal is to make that percentage as high as possible.

Once the student body approved the sustainability fee, recycling bins were placed in a few locations on campus. More were added in other buildings as money became available, but eventually they reached the limit of what $7 per student per year could accomplish. In order to more efficiently share and use resources, the recycling program became part of MSU’s Facilities Services in 2018.

“In 2012 and 2013 we started to become more organized and growth happened quickly,” said Logun Norris, MSU’s recycling coordinator. Norris began as one of those student employees, collecting recycling in the early mornings, joining the staff of the Office of Sustainability after he graduated. “Now, nearly every academic building has recycling, and some buildings have multiple stations per floor.”

Recycling was eventually added to student residence halls, family and graduate housing, football games and other campus events, helping increase the diversion rate to nearly 13% by 2015. And with the recycling program well established, the office was able to shift some attention to another element of waste.

“The recycling is really important, but we had this whole other aspect that we weren’t even touching, which is food waste,” said Blackler. “We’re the largest institutional food service in the state, serving more than 15,000 meals a day, so we wanted to get a better understanding of what our food waste situation looked like.”

To do that, the Office of Sustainability partnered with faculty members Carmen Byker Shanks and Selena Ahmed of MSU’s Department of Health and Human Development in 2015. Along with members of their classes in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, Byker Shanks and Ahmed did waste audits measuring both pre- and post-consumer waste for Miller Dining Commons, assessing how much food was being thrown away, both before serving and after.

Those audits led to changes as simple as smaller plates and serving utensils, as well as working with MSU Culinary Services to evaluate the amount of food being ordered. With the help of a grant from MSU’s Strategic Investment Proposal program, an area near campus transformed into a compost site. From before the Miller Dining Commons renovation in 2015 to post-renovation in 2016, food waste was cut in half. And when Rendezvous Dining Pavilion opened in 2018, everything students used was either compostable or reusable.

In 2018, the city of Bozeman reached out to form a composting partnership with the university. The city had previously only composted residential yard waste, but wanted to test some new equipment by composting MSU’s food waste.

“The first year we partnered with the city, we composted about 540,000 pounds of food waste,” said Norris. “This year, we’re on track to divert 650,000 pounds. Our food waste right now is 35% of our total diverted waste on campus, and we’re able to collect from nearly all our food service locations. Without that partnership, we wouldn’t be able to divert nearly as much food waste from the landfill.”

After being processed at city facilities, that compost ends up in parks and gardens around the Gallatin Valley, including on the MSU campus. Through the Office of Sustainability’s efforts, MSU’s diversion rate continued to climb and is on track to reach 36% for fiscal year 2020.

Blackler said the Office of Sustainability has more goals yet on the horizon. During the fall semester of 2019, for instance, the university hosted its first two “zero-waste” events — MSU’s First Meal and its Welcome Back Barbecue — where less than 1% of waste went into a landfill.

“I can remember having people laugh in my face when I would talk about zero-waste events,” said Blackler. “It’s all about how we can remove the barriers to each person being able to recycle or compost, and what kind of infrastructure we need to set up to make that happen. That’s been a really fun, interesting challenge, and we made it happen.”

MSU has also created a “move-in, move-out” program, which first began as a class project overseen by undergraduate volunteers. As students moved out of their residence halls at the end of the academic year, many of the things they had bought for moving in, while still in working condition, were getting thrown away. The program allows the students to donate appliances, décor and furniture for resale to incoming students, for a fraction of the price, the following fall.

Eventually, said Blackler, the goal of sustainability is to divert 100% of waste – no more trips to the landfill. It might be a long road, but she believes it’s possible.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had to justify why this is important to campus,” she said. “For so long we were struggling to keep up with the demands of a growing campus. Now we’re in a really good place on that front, and our next steps are building the education and outreach around the foundation we already have.”

To learn more about MSU waste diversion practices, please visit the Office of Sustainability website.

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Thursday, Apr. 16th, 2020

Belgrade Restaurants Take Out & Delivery Options During COVID-19

This page was made for free by Bozeman Magazine in support of these establishments and the community. No business is paying to be a part of this temporary directory. All information is subject to (rapid) change. If you are a restaurant owner offering take out and/or delivery during the crisis and are not listed please email us at info [at] bozemanmagazine [dot] com with the specific information you want to post and we will add your business. Wishing you all our best! #bozemanfoodscene

Since Phase I reopening began on May 4 restaurants may or may not be offering dine-in options. Click on the name of the business to go directly to their website/most current information, each business phone # is also listed.

LAST UPDATED 12:23PM 4.28.20

Click Restaurant name to go to their MENU

Bone Broth Noodles
Open for takeout and delivery (free delivery for all orders over $30 and up to 3 mile radius). / (406) 813-8466

Bair’s Restaurant/Broadway Diner
Open 24/7 for takeout call  (406) 388-4665 / delivery and menu available via doordash

Bubby's Burger Barn
Drive-thru open / (406) 451-8441

Cafe Havana
Call us at 406-223-8720 to place your order

Chalet Market
Open 9-5 everyday / (406) 388-4687

Cosmic Pizza
We are open for take out and delivery during the Covid - 19 crisis. Also, we are able to deliver BEER AND WINE from the Belgrade store with your pizza purchase. / (406) 924-2189

Dairy Queen Brazier
Drivethru open and delivery availble via doordash / (406) 924-6944

Espresso to Go
Drivethru open / (406) 924-9889

Heros Sub Shop
Open for pickup / (406) 388-8322

Hong Kong City
We are still open 11:30-9pm for Togo's and deliveries all day! Please call ahead or use Qmenu or eatstreet to make your orders. / (406) 388-8823

Iron Horse Cafe & Pie Shop
In Three Forks is open 9-8 daily, serving our full menu and made from scratch pies. Takeout, curbside pickup, and (sometimes) delivery available. Order online at orderironhorsecafe.com or on the Menufy app!

The Local American Saloon
Place order, pay and tip your server from your cell phone! / https://orders.cake.net/11099707 / (406) 924-6033

Mackenzie River Pizza Co.
Offering take-out from 11:30am to 7pm. All you have to do is give us a call, pay with a credit or debit card over the phone & shoot us a smile as you pick up your food - Easy as 1, 2, 3 / (406) 388-0016

Mint Bar & Cafe
We will be open for take out orders only until further notice, 4:00 - 8:00 PM. We are happy to offer curbside take out! / 406-924-6017

Mr Burritos
Our business hours are changing during this COVID-19 crisis to 8 am - 8 pm. We are still offering our fresh Mexican food to go at our food truck and delivery with DoorDash. / (406) 577-4887

Papa Murphy's Take 'n' Bake
Making at-home meals easy. Pickup available 11am-8pm. / (406) 388-8100

Stageline Pizza
Open normal business hours, offering pick-up and delivery only. /
(406) 388-0011

The Wok
We accept online credit card payment only. We are open 11:15 AM-9:00 PM /
(406) 388-2838

See the full Bozeman Restaurants Take Out & Delivery Options During COVID-19 here.



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Wednesday, Apr. 15th, 2020
Tuesday, Apr. 14th, 2020

MSU alumni help supply coronavirus field hospitals in New York


Montana State University alumni are playing an important role in the emergency response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, aiding in the construction of field hospitals in New York, where the number of COVID-19 patients is straining the medical system.

AAON, the company founded by the MSU engineering alumnus Norm Asbjornson, expedited design and manufacturing of 80 large, custom cooling and ventilation units for new, temporary hospitals being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Stony Brook University and SUNY Old Westbury.

After being contacted early last week by consulting engineers who knew of AAON from previous New York projects, the company designed a custom air conditioning unit configured for the tent-like hospitals, then dedicated a production line at the company's Tulsa, Oklahoma, plant to make roughly 14 of the units per 24 hours — more than double the normal production rate.

"A lot of people would say you couldn't possibly do that, but we did it, and we were able to do it because we have a lot of talented people here," said Asbjornson, who earned his bachelor's in mechanical engineering from MSU and gave $50 million in 2014 to fund design and construction of MSU's Norm Asbjornson Hall.

Whereas a typical AC unit would sit on the flat roof of a hospital, circulating air through inlets and outlets on top and bottom, the temporary tent hospitals required AC units that would sit on the ground and circulate air sideways. The AAON units were also optimized to handle humidity and filter air.

"We didn't just take these things off the shelf," said Asbjornson, who grew up on a small farm in the Montana town of Winifred during the Great Depression. He graduated from MSU in 1960 and worked in the HVAC business for 28 years before founding AAON. "We are known for being able to customize our product."

Loaded four per semi-truck, the finished units made the 30-hour trek to New York in a straight shot, arriving days ahead of schedule — less than a week after AAON was first contacted about the project.

"I don't know of any other company that can do that," said Brett Gunnink, dean of MSU's Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering. "They are in a unique position to be able to support these (pandemic response) efforts," because their manufacturing is located in the U.S. and is done in an innovative, integrated way, he said.

"In these challenging times, when we're all searching for ways to help, it's exciting to hear how our Bobcat engineers are able to contribute," Gunnink said.

"I'm proud as can be of all the people who worked on this," Asbjornson said. "Quite a few other MSU people were involved."

Overseeing the project was AAON Director of Manufacturing Doug Wichman, who attended MSU for business classes after earning his bachelor's in engineering from Montana Tech and before earning an MBA from University of Montana. Wichman, a native of Big Timber, estimated that more than half a dozen MSU engineering alumni were involved in the design and manufacturing effort.

"What it boiled down to was: What could we get done, and how quickly could we do it for this emergency situation?" Wichman said, noting that each of the units was affixed with a special sticker reading "United We Stand" as it rolled down the production line. "We had a lot of pride in building these," he said. "It was a company-wide undertaking."

AAON also offered the AC units to the Army at their standard price, rather than charging extra for the custom, expedited work. "We didn't want to make extra money just because the government wanted these,” said Asbjornson. “We wanted to help."

MSU's engineering college was named for Asbjornson after his 2014 gift of $50 million rounded out the university’s South Campus project of $70 million.

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Montana State to offer all summer courses via online and remote delivery

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Montana State University will offer all its summer 2020 courses through online and remote delivery, the university announced today.

The university has four-, six-, eight- and 12-week online and remote offerings with different start times during the spring and summer to accommodate students’ schedules.

“Summer school is a great option for traditional and non-traditional students during what could be an extended period of social distancing and stay-at-home orders,” said MSU Provost Robert Mokwa. “A large variety of courses and program offerings will be available this summer. It’s a great opportunity for students to stay productive and connected, while staying on-track and on-time for their degree goals.”

The university is keeping open the possibility that it may also offer a small number of hands-on, experiential courses later in the summer, including a limited selection of Gallatin College workforce development courses.

To register for MSU’s 2020 Summer Session, visit www.montana.edu/summer.
The schedule for summer courses is as follows:

  •     Full semester, 12-week session: May 18–Aug. 7
  •     May four-week session: May 18–June 12
  •     May six-week session: May 18–June 26
  •     June four-week session: June 15–July 10
  •     June eight-week session: June 15–Aug. 7
  •     June six-week session: June 29–Aug. 7
  •     July four-week session: July 13–Aug. 7

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Monday, Apr. 13th, 2020

Montana Science Center Offers Online Programs

ONLINE PROGRAMS | April 13-17

Join our online community for virtual science education! Hop on to our Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channel to begin the fun! 

Monday, April 13 | Virtual Preschool Science 
This week's topic: The Earth's rotation 

Tuesday, April 14 | Virtual Science Station
This week's topic: Firework's in a Jar

Tuesday, April 14 | 3D Printer Naming Contest
Voting begins!

Wednesday, April 15 | Eat Well Play Well Series
Learn about capillary action with this colorful celery experiment.

Thursday, April 16 | 30 Seconds of STEM
Interview with: Rebecca Spitz, Director of In Focus Astronomy & Space Naturalist 

Friday, April 17 | Virtual Science Station
This week's experiment: Sound waves (and music!)

facebook.com/MontanaScienceCenter
instagram.com/montanasciencecenter

MSC YouTube Channel

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Thursday, Apr. 9th, 2020

Leaders must cut through barriers, adapt regulations to expand and sustain health care workforce during pandemic, say MSU professor and colleagues

An article written by health workforce leaders and published today in the New England Journal of Medicine calls for health care delivery organizations, educators and government leaders to “cut through bureaucratic barriers and adapt regulations to rapidly expand the U.S. health care workforce and sustain it” for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The article was written by eight leaders of public and private research centers who interact with and study the U.S. health workforce, including Peter Buerhaus, director of the Montana State University Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies and professor in the MSU College of Nursing. Additional authors are Erin P. Fraher, Patricia Pittman, Bianca K. Frogner, Joanne Spetz, Jean Moore, Angela J. Beck and David Armstrong.

“Current efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic aim to slow viral spread and increase testing, protect health care workers from infection, and obtain ventilators and other equipment to prepare for a surge of critically ill patients. But additional actions are needed to rapidly increase health workforce capacity and to replenish it when personnel are quarantined or need time off to rest or care for sick family members,” Buerhaus and the other authors wrote in “Ensuring and Sustaining a Pandemic Workforce.”

The authors of the article, which was published in the Perspective section of the journal, recommended a number of measures that could expand and sustain the health care workforce. Among their suggestions:

  • Having governors remove barriers to expand capacity by enacting emergency orders that modify or temporarily rescind medical malpractice policies that inhibit health professionals’ ability to expand their scope of practice.
  • Changing internal policies such as workflows, task-delegation protocols or union agreements in hospitals and nursing homes to allow health workers to fully use their knowledge and skills.
  • Expanding the types of services that can be covered by insurance, broadening the number and types of providers eligible for insurance payments and allowing services to be provided in a wider range of settings.
  • Allowing hospitals to provide benefits to support staff, such as multiple daily meals, laundry service for personal clothing or child care services.
  • Sending respiratory therapists to hospitals most in need and developing programs to quickly train workers who can operate ventilators competently.
  • Allowing medical students in their third and fourth years who are no longer in clinical rotations to perform various medical tasks to free up clinicians for COVID-19 care.
  • Identifying health care professionals who have either retired or temporarily left the workforce and encouraging them to return to work.
  • Training dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and other health professionals whose practices have temporarily closed because of COVID-19 to conduct screenings, take vital signs, provide telephone follow-up, collect epidemiologic data and provide community education.
  • Planning for the needs of millions of people in the U.S. who require treatment for mental health disorders.
  • Allowing health care workers to offer telehealth services across state lines, even if they’re not part of interstate licensing compacts.
  • Examining regulations to determine whether health professionals’ scope of practice is being unnecessarily restricted.

“How well the country handles the COVID-19 crisis depends largely on how effectively our health workforce is used,” the authors wrote. “Much can be done to ensure that the workforce is prepared to defeat the pandemic.”

The full article is available at nejm.org.

A second article by Buerhaus and colleagues David I. Auerbach and Douglas O. Staiger, “Older Clinicians and the Surge in Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” was published March 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Among other points, the authors noted that hospitals and other care delivery organizations should carefully consider how best to protect and preserve their workforce, with careful consideration involving older physicians and nurses.

The older nurses and physicians caring for patients today are “an essential and vitally important component of many organizations,” Buerhaus and his colleagues wrote, especially because many older nurses and physicians have experience with disasters, triaging, decision making, and managing staff and resources under times of great stress.

“While hospitals and other organizations ramp up their preparations, this is the time to determine whether there may be different roles for older clinicians that ensure they are able to contribute over the long-term course of the pandemic,” the authors wrote in the article, which appeared in the journal’s Viewpoint section. “This is not to suggest that these older nurses and physicians should necessarily be precluded from providing clinical care or should be isolated, but rather to consider if their direct clinical duties can be shifted to emphasize roles with less risk of exposure.”

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