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Nova Scotians ready to lend a hand in COVID-19 vaccination push

Province says they need volunteers with all kinds of skills to help roll out vaccine

4 min read
caption You can apply to volunteer on the Nova Scotia Health website
Nicole Foussekis

In just a week, Nova Scotia Health has received over 250 volunteer applications from across the province to help with the province’s COVID-19 response plan.

“We are so thankful for everyone that’s stepped up to apply to volunteer,” Gail Surette, manager of volunteer services at Nova Scotia Health, said in an interview.

Surette said the response has been enthusiastic since the volunteer postings were mentioned during a COVID briefing last week.

The volunteer application on the Nova Scotia Health website has two streams: one for health-care professionals (such as retired or active nurses, pharmacists, and paramedics) and one for general volunteers.

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Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, discussed the volunteer program again at Tuesday’s COVID briefing.

“Putting a needle in somebody’s arm and getting the syringe ready is just one of many roles that we need to run a successful clinic,” he said.

Surette said that they’re first looking at volunteers who have clinical experience and are licensed to immunize. She added that they’re still in the planning phase to determine exactly how many volunteers they need from each stream and what roles they’ll fill in future phases of the vaccine rollout.

caption Volunteers help assemble Patient Information Packages for the South Shore Regional Hospital. Ann Luther, Ricky Bower, and Felix Hachey (left to right).
Heidi Smeltzer (Nova Scotia Health)

Surette said that general, non-clinical volunteers typically help with screening, greeting, or wayfinding. Wayfinders help guide visitors at health-care facilities.

“A lot of people are anxious entering the site during COVID times, so it gives them a sense of comfort being guided to their clinic or their appointment,” Surette said.

Before COVID, Nova Scotia Health had a team of 7,000 volunteers. After COVID, volunteer programs were entirely suspended, until a few low-risk roles were added back.  Volunteers come from a spectrum of backgrounds – from students exploring a career in health care, to retired nurses who want to use their skills to help.

“Volunteers are really the voice of our community,” Surette said. “We really value our volunteers as part of our health-care team.”

Surette said they will respond to all volunteer applicants – it might just take a little bit of time.

Nova Scotia College of Nursing issues conditional licences

Conditional licences for retired nurses are now being offered, for free, by the Nova Scotia College of Nursing, according to a press release on Jan. 14.

These licences can only be used for temporary work in a pandemic response role, such as in a vaccination or assessment clinic, for contact tracing, or client support.

Strang said in Tuesday’s COVID briefing that 125 nurses have already been relicensed.

He added that other regulatory bodies, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons, are also offering rapid relicensing to help with the COVID response.

The province plans to vaccinate over 70,000 individuals by the end of Phase 1 in April.

Phase 1 vaccine rollout continues

The province is currently vaccinating long-term care home residents and front-line health-care workers in localized clinics, as part of the Phase 1 of the immunization plan.

Strang said the province has administered 8,520 vaccine doses as of Monday, including 2,215 second doses. By the end of the week, the province will have received a total of 28,850 doses.

The province is planning to launch prototype vaccination clinics in pharmacies and primary health-care clinics in the next 90 days, Strang said at the COVID briefing.

While immunization must be done by licensed health-care professionals, Strang maintained that there will be opportunities for the community to volunteer.

He said that based on their experience with the pop-up testing sites, where they had “significant buy-in from communities,” people wanted to contribute.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with building this partly on a volunteer basis,” he added.

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About the author

Nicole Foussekis

Nicole Foussekis (she/her) lives and writes in Mohkinstsis, also known as Calgary, on Treaty 7 land in Alberta. She is an avid daydreamer and...

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