Medical students in Saint John have started a program to pair themselves with health-care workers who could use some help with personal tasks during the COVID-19 response.
Students who want to volunteer fill out a form, indicating what kind of help they can provide free of charge — whether it’s child care, walking pets or running errands, including trips to the grocery store to pick up orders.
“As students, it’s really hard to have to sit back and watch our future colleagues put so much effort in,” said Kathleen MacMillan, a first-year student in the Dalhousie University medical program in Saint John. “So we’re just trying to help in any way we can.”
MacMillan said the project isn’t run by the school. She said this is a student-led initiative, co-ordinated by medical students in Halifax and New Brunswick.
And it’s not limited to Dalhousie medical students.
‘Scrambling for child care’
In Saint John, the program has also attracted volunteers from the social work programs and nursing school at University of New Brunswick Saint John, said MacMillan.
Freddy Lee, the program’s co-lead in Halifax, said the response there has been terrific. He said there are about 80 people in the volunteer pool and many are being called upon to provide child care.
“A lot of people here have been scrambling for child care,” said Lee. “Their need is really urgent and we’re happy to help out.”
MacMillan said child care is not the most pressing issue in Saint John.
In New Brunswick, some daycares have remained open to provide spaces to children of essential workers, as mandated by the province.
MacMillan said volunteers are screened to reduce the risk of spreading any infection.
If they’ve travelled within the past 14 days or if they’re in close contact with someone who has travelled recently, they cannot participate.
Each student is restricted to just one family and can’t work with any seniors or volunteer in any other settings.
They can transport items but not people and they must obey physical distancing.
As another precaution, MacMillan said she can see all the correspondence between a volunteer and their match.
“We get copied on all the messages that are sent between them and that way, we can monitor if things are going okay,” she said.
“We also do check-ins with the student to make sure they’re keeping up with their classes. It’s a pretty-well monitored program.”
MacMillan said students are still taking courses online, even though the campus is closed.
The group is working to launch a Facebook page, Dal Students for Healthcare Professionals.
But in the interim, they’re relying on word of mouth, posters, google forms and an email, email@example.com