Navigating Hospice Care During COVID-19 with Malene Davis

Apr 13, 2020

“What did we have? What were we really not prepared for? We need to make assignments that way and prioritize in a different way than we ever have before,” said Malene Davis, Chief Visionary Officer and Founding President of WV Caring in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Davis addresses COVID-19 and the opportunities ahead for not just the hospice field, but for all who are affected by the virus.

Davis is a national healthcare expert in the acute post field known for institutional financial and quality turnaround. With more than 30 years of leading and educating clinicians on the business of healthcare, WV Caring achieves outcomes of key quality metrics, purpose and profit. 

Discover how WV Caring is handling COVID-19 and what Davis feels is best for hospice care during this unfortunate time. 


What can West Virginia businesses do – right now – to survive this current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic situation we’re all facing today?


Davis said, “Hospice care, as we define it here in West Virginia, takes place in people’s homes – whether it’s their own, friend’s, daughter’s, nursing home, assisted living, etc. We’ve been designed to provide palliative care, which is a high-quality end of life care. It’s a comprehensive kind of care. We have a whole team. It’s not just nurses. It’s social workers, chaplins, bereavement people, physicians and volunteers. Then, a whole host of people who support those who are on the front line on a daily basis. So, it’s a lot of organization that happens anyway. Can you imagine going through an advanced illness and end of life situation and then, add a pandemic on top of that?” 

For the past three weeks, the WV Caring team has been proactive in staying in communication.

“We’re triaging, meeting, talking, assessing on a daily basis what the CDC and health departments say, what the hospitals say. I loved listening to Dave Goldberg, and of course Clay Marsh is a dear friend of mine. [Marsh] isn’t just the czar of COVID; he’s just the czar. He really cares about the community and what’s happening in West Virginia. We do have some excellent leaders.”

The WV Caring team takes COVID-19 seriously and assesses themselves and their patients daily to ensure quality health and safety.

Davis said, “We assess every single day. We assess ourselves first – how are we doing? We have a process in place where we send in if anyone is symptomatic or traveling. We have a whole series of questions we have to email every day before we go to work to make sure we’re all good. Then we also are assessing our patients and their families – how is everyone feeling? Same series of questions. Does anyone have a fever? Is anyone feeling ill?” 

Davis talked about the involvement of hospice care and how they value the patient and their family as a whole.

“One wonderful thing about hospice care is that it doesn’t only take care of the patient, but the unit of care is with the whole family. So, we are really into families. 

Someone once told me that hospice care is 80 percent about the spiritual and social parts of the human person, and the 20 percent is the biological part. So, once we get pain and symptoms out of control, then we are dealing with a family going through the end of life journey. We end up being coaches along the way. 

I said if we could give every one of our staff a whistle. And you have to act like a coach because you’re encouraging people that you can’t think of anything else they could be doing that you wouldn’t do. And that gives them some confidence in what they’re doing and we’re reassuring people on a daily basis. 

During unprecedented times like this, we are certainly encouraging and coaching people and answering lots and lots of questions from our staff.

Most people want to be at home for the end of life. So, this comes in quite great for us right now because most of our patients want to stay at home. Our part and what we contribute is helping them to do that, so on a daily basis, we’ve had to take the controls. To triage things besides whether to go or not go – do people want us to come, can we do things over the phone,” said Davis. 


“We’ve incorporated outbound proactive telephone calls into our practice. It’s something that I’ve studied for a while. This has really been interesting to see it get put back into our practice. So, again, making people feel more confident.

Back in 2014, when I first tried this, that’s what we were going for. We really wanted people to feel more confident about what’s happening in their home and taking care of their loved ones. We did a study, and it showed that people really did feel more confident and more comfortable. 

WV Caring also cared for my dad and many aunts and uncles since then. I saw it play out in my mom and dad’s living room. I remember telling one of our aids at the time, Debbie, ‘Are you sure we really do this for everybody’s home?’ She said, ‘Yes, we do this in everybody’s home.’ I had worked there for 15 years at that point. 

I thought, ‘This really is the best thing next to sliced bread.’ We just wish people would get it sooner because that’s probably the number one comment we get across the county, but certainly here that ‘We wish we would’ve gotten your services sooner. We could’ve used this help months ago.’ I think that it’s really great because it is once we get symptoms and pain under control, family members and patients actually want to get up and get dressed and actually carry on normal life. It really can be a time of light, an opportunity for growth,” said Davis.


“I think ten years ago, we talked about the baby boomers. So, the baby boomers are coming in waves. I’m at the tail end of the baby boomers, so there’s this wave coming. Each wave has access and utilizes technology more than the last one. I think as the next wave, we always have to be on our game. I think what worked before won’t exactly work as we move forward.

We will never be the same. We won’t be the same organization. We won’t be the same community. We won’t be the same state, the same country. And, quite honestly, we shouldn’t be. As history teaches us, we learn from the mistakes. This is not the first global crisis. We always come through by sticking together, by not being afraid. Sometimes the fear itself is worse than the virus,” said Davis. 

Davis believes WV Caring can pull many lessons and opportunities for growth from this event.

“What we’re learning as an organization is that maybe some of the reaching out, proactively, to calm fears – typically hospice after the office closes, we’re available 24 hours a day. Typically, calls are to request assistance with symptom control or to report a death or even request a home visit. What we find is that outbound calling instills a confidence level that we want people to have. We don’t want them to be afraid when we’re not there,” said Davis. 

Moving forward, Davis wants to continue using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google and utilizing Telehospice.

“I’d love to see everybody get a physician visit. Now, really, medicare and insurances have not paid for that. Hopefully, out of this, one thing we’ll learn as a country is telehealth will be graced even more because some people really would rather stay in their homes,” said Davis.


“I think through this pandemic, we’ve learned more about simplicity and slowing down. I think people will really analyze this, learn from this. We need to and if we don’t, it would be a huge error. We must do that. 

We will do an evaluation, come out and give you our opinion. Our social workers are versed and know all of the community resources. You can call our 800 number anytime. If you have a question, don’t wait, just call,” said Davis.

To get in touch with WV Caring, give them a call: 1-866-656-9790

Learn more about WV Caring here.

Listen to the full podcast here.

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