Returning to Work in Health Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, the health care system has been challenged to provide patient care and services to our people and communities. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a significant toll on health care workers, forcing them to endure many challenges and hardships.  Over the past three years, our front-line staff has worked tirelessly and risen to the occasion during the many waves and outbreaks to provide exceptional patient care.  To assist in relief efforts, casual staff, and retired professionals signed up to help front-line staff provide patient care, set up vaccine clinics, and assist in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout through numerous communities in the Western region.

Two retirees that answered the call were Registered Nurse, Juanita Jacobs, and Administrative Support, Deborah Denny.

Juanita Jacobs worked with Western Health for 26 years. Before working with Western Health, Juanita worked as a nurse at the Janeway in St. John’s for 9 years. Juanita returned to the western region to work as a vaccinator at COVID-19 vaccination clinics. Juanita says she “felt compelled to help and “felt helpless watching the pandemic unfold.”

“I was relieved to be part of the vaccination rollout to help contain and slow down the virus,” Juanita said.

Answering the call to help is something that Juanita is very familiar with. Throughout her career, she has participated in various international mission trips, including working on a medical ship to Papua, New Guinea, and working with the Salvation Army to help build and repair properties that serve children and seniors in the southern Caribbean countries. Juanita says that returning to work at the vaccine clinics has made her feel valued, and she enjoys working on a team that shares a common goal. When asked if she would return to work again if called upon, she said “I am always here to help, and I enjoy experiencing the patient and staff connection again.” Juanita also likes to broaden her experience outside nursing. Since retiring, she has worked as a shuttle driver and part of a landscape maintenance crew.

Deborah Denny returned to work with Western Health at COVID-19 vaccine clinics and various Western Health sites for general administrative support roles such as data entry, registering clients, and client booking for vaccines and testing. Deborah worked for Western Health for 20 years as a ward clerk, most recently in the Emergency department.

“The most surprising thing about coming back to work is all the wonderful, hardworking, and dedicated people that I’ve met,” Deborah said.

Deborah feels that working with other health professionals again has helped her make new friendships. Deborah’s favorite hobby is knitting, and she loves sending her knitted items to her colleagues and her new friends that she made during the pandemic. Since retiring, Deborah has spent most of her time at her cabin with her family and grandchildren.

Juanita and Deborah are just two of the many staff who came out of retirement to help during the pandemic. Each Western Health staff member who worked tirelessly over the pandemic is much appreciated, and we celebrate them for their commitment, dedication, and hard work.

Kayla Brake, Community Health Manager