Keeping it safe
Do you have any COVID-19 symptoms? It’s a question you will be asked by screeners across St. Joseph’s Health Care London upon entering a St. Joseph’s facility. This, and other important questions, have been asked so many times by screeners they could quite literally recite them in their sleep. Yet, they show up every day, smiling behind their mask, ready to do everything they can to keep patients, staff and physicians safe from the spiraling pandemic.
What do screeners do?
The screener role - a newly created position within St. Joseph’s since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 - involves screening patients, visitors, staff and physicians for coronavirus symptoms and other risk factors. The position also includes handing out masks, greeting individuals upon entry, and helping to escort people to different areas of the hospital.
Early on in the pandemic, many staff at St. Joseph’s were redeployed to fill this role. They have since returned to their previous positions, leaving the job largely to a group of new, dedicated individuals committed to at this unprecedented time.
“Without screeners, greeters and wayfinders in place, the risk of COVID-19 virus coming into our organization or transmission between patients, residents, staff and physicians would have been exponentially greater,” says Jennifer Payton, Director of Quality, Strategy and Innovation at St. Joseph’s. “Screeners are also incredibly quick to adjust to constant changes in procedures and processes as the pandemic unfolds. We appreciate their astute flexibility and dedication.”
Who are the screeners?
The responsibility of the screeners comes with both its challenges and opportunities. Tracy Drenth, Volunteer Services Coordinator at St. Joseph’s who also orientates newly hired screeners, says, “I couldn’t be prouder and more thankful for so many wonderful people who have and continue to work with us as part of our screening team. As the vaccination process will take time, we will continue to need the support of this incredible team to keep us all as safe as possible.”
Two dedicated individuals who have eagerly taken on this unique duty are Emily Brewer and Holly Bourdeau. Here, they share their experiences on the frontlines of this historic pandemic:
Emily Brewer is a 22-year-old student at Western University who works as a screener at St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Parkwood Institute Main Building.
“One of the unique aspects of my job is screening staff at Parkwood Institute Main building, which has a daycare located at the facility. I love watching the little kids come through and putting a smile on their faces. I sometimes give them fun stickers or little individually wrapped treats just to brighten their day.”
Seeing many of the same staff every day, Emily says she has enjoyed getting to know them and contributing to their safety during the pandemic.
“I have volunteered in health care before as a student porter and was familiar with working in a health care setting. I knew there was a need for screeners when the pandemic began and felt it would be a great opportunity to help out. It started as a summer job, but I have since continued on a part-time basis. I’ve formed many friendships with my co-workers, which is one of many reasons I am excited to come to work every day. But it’s also important to remind people about the main reason so many of us are here – because we care about everyone’s safety and want to do our part to help.”
Holly Bourdeau, a screener, greeter and ‘wayfinder’ at St. Joseph’s Hospital says the ever-changing role has taught her to be adaptable, resilient and “just ready to take on anything, which is somewhat like COVID-19 itself.”
“One of the biggest challenges was adapting to being the first point of contact for patients, family and staff during a time when emotions are running high. Patients often can’t be accompanied by a family member or loved one unless they are deemed essential. This can create a bit of anxiety and sometimes tears so my role is to make them feel as comfortable as possible and ensure they know where to go in the hospital for their appointment.”
A self-described people person and a previous business owner, Holly is used to working with people, but she finds the screener role particularly gratifying.
“I feel good knowing I have given a patient who enters our site a warm smile and understanding when I know many of them have a lot on their minds. Even just simply riding the elevator with a patient after they have been screened to help them get to their appointment or put them at ease makes a big difference in someone’s experience.”
DID YOU KNOW?
- More than 8,500 outpatients are screened per week at entrances across St. Joseph’s Health Care London.
- More than 160 screeners, greeters, and wayfinders currently staff 14 entrances across St. Joseph's to keep everyone safe.
- St. Joseph’s goes through approximately 46,000 masks weekly at screening locations across the organization’s facilities.
This story appeared in Issue 03 of My St. Joseph's. View more stories from the magazine.