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COVID Duty

Behind the scenes at a local COVID clinic.

As the coronavirus continues to spread across our world and millions more are becoming infected, you may wonder what it’s like to work in a COVID clinic. To help answer that question, I decided to interview my mother, Joy Schuurman – a family doctor who joined the ranks of those working in the COVID clinics at a local site in Guelph, Ontario.

Each doctor can choose how many shifts he or she is able to work in a week, and whether to take a six-hour or a 12-hour shift. So far none of the doctors working there has been infected with the virus. Each shift usually has five doctors along with many nurses and support staff. In order to prevent bringing an infection home, my mom takes her scrubs off at the clinic, changes into a different set of scrubs to drive home, then showers, changes again, and wipes down all her stuff with a sanitizing wipe.

Around 500 people come through the clinic every day. When a person checks in, they are asked why they are there. If they have symptoms, their vital signs are checked and then a nasopharyngeal swab is done. A nasopharyngeal swab goes to the back of the nose. At first the clinic only did COVID swabs, but now they also offer throat swabs to check for strep throat if someone has a sore throat and can also arrange chest X-rays at the hospital. They can also provide treatment prescriptions when needed.

People react quite differently to having a swab. Some people don’t flinch, but others are very anxious; some will even push and kick the doctor, and a few will faint or get a bloody nose. Sometimes a brave child will take the swab better than their parents!

Faith & compassion

The clinic space in Guelph is rather drab and dull: fluorescent lights illuminate an industrial warehouse building. Staff are bustling around trying to get people through as quickly as possible, creating an energetic, efficient atmosphere. There is a high level of safety and cleanliness: chairs are wiped between each patient; every piece of equipment is sanitized between each patient and everyone wears multiple layers of PPE (personal protective equipment).

My mom’s faith gives her courage as she works at the clinic. When she volunteered during the first wave, no one knew if there would be a high risk of getting COVID from swabbing symptomatic people. She entered into this with a sense of duty knowing that there was a higher risk for both her and her family. She makes an effort to be compassionate with people – to look them in the eye, give them the time that they need, and trust God’s care for them. She does her best to provide a positive experience for everyone who comes in, with special attention to the kids. Mom also encourages churches to keep following Public Health guidelines and to continue being creative with how we can connect as a church during lockdown.

If you need to visit a COVID clinic and feel queasy at having a long white stick shoved up into your head, she says it feels just like getting water up your nose. It will probably hurt a little more for some people than others, but it only takes 10 seconds. Lastly, I would like to add something my mom said, “A word of hope: if we all keep working together and follow the public health guidelines, we will get through this.”

  • Joseph lives in Guelph, Ontario and has had five COVID tests. None were by his mother.

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