Mass vaccination clinics, powered by mostly volunteer workforce, were an essential part of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in the U.S.
In Illinois, Montana and Texas, those volunteers included clinicians who work for Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC).
“I remember getting home from the first clinic and telling my husband — this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says HCSC wellbeing health advisor Brooke Swingley, a registered nurse who volunteered for several shifts at a mass vaccination clinic in Helena, Montana. “Everyone there has the mentality of being there to help make the world safer for everybody else.”
Bernadette Engram, a registered nurse working as a unit manager of clinical operations for HCSC’s Illinois health plans, volunteered at the mass vaccination clinic in her hometown of Marion, Illinois, twice a week.
“My heart just wanted to help,” Engram says. “When they asked for clinical volunteers, I knew I had to step up and use my background to assist.”
Engram and Swingley are among about 30 HCSC clinician employees who have volunteered their time to give COVID-19 vaccines in their communities, using an HCSC program that pays clinicians for up to 80 hours of time spent volunteering on the COVID-19 front lines.
Supporting employee volunteers
HCSC initially established the program in 2020, when the pandemic left hospitals short staffed and doctors stretched to the limits.
“These calls for help are what initially led us to develop the program and throughout much of 2020, the volunteer efforts were focused on treating those with COVID-19,” says John Hosea, vice president of human resources benefits and operations at HCSC.
Dr. Alex Lesko, a medical director with HCSC, used the program to help COVID-19 patients in a New York hospital emergency room during the pandemic’s first surge. But as the curve flattened and hospitals were better resourced, HCSC clinicians used the program in a different way.
“As vaccines started becoming available, much of the volunteer effort shifted to these efforts and our clinical volunteer policy remains in force today,” Hosea says.
A broad response to the COVID-19 crisis
The clinician volunteer program is just one of the ways HCSC supported members, providers and communities during the pandemic.
HCSC’s COVID-19 Community Collaboration Fund distributed $8 million to 128 local organizations that address hunger relief, childcare, provider support and access to care during the pandemic.
And Care Vans® sponsored by HCSC health plans are helping distribute COVID-19 vaccines to high-risk and rural populations.
As of June 27, 46% of Americans were fully vaccinated against the virus.
For Alicia Harris, a case management coordinator for HCSC in Texas, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 brought on a sense of relief and freedom.
Harris has a preexisting condition that put her at high risk, so she stayed home and did her best to stay safe until it was her turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Once she was fully protected, she immediately wanted to return the favor. “I wanted to do that for people in my community — give them the sense of things getting better and feeling safer.”