As the COVID-19 outbreak puts an increasingly heavy burden on health care workers around the world, many doctors, nurses and other essential health care workers are voluntarily coming out of retirement to let a hand. Older adults are among the most vulnerable groups of people with an increased risk for serious complications as a result of infection from the new coronavirus. But still, many feel strongly that if they are able, they want to help provide the critical services needed to treat COVID-19 and stop its spread.
When the United States declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency on March 13, regulations for healthcare professionals were eased to allow more people to gain access to vital health care. With each state creating their own guidelines, many asked retired and semi-retired doctors, nurses, physician assistants and respiratory care practitioners to come out of retirement to lend a hand. Some states issued emergency licenses or offered a longer grace period to those whose licenses had expired. Fourth-year medical students are also pitching in helping to screen workers, safeguard protective equipment and help with hospital call lines.
In Canada, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia has emailed hundreds of doctors who retired in the past two years to help provide emergency room and intensive care assistance. And in Quebec, over 10,000 resumes have been received. More than 3,000 nurses in Ontario have also responded to the call for help.
For retired health care workers with their own underlying health problems, helping ease the load for working doctors and nurses with telehealth consultations or manning call centers may be an option. Retired psychiatrists and psychologists may also be able to help people suffering from extreme stress and anxiety during this crisis.
Despite all the negative information flooding the media surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, there is always something positive to look for in even the most dire situation. One of the only things people may have control over these days is their ability to choose how they respond to the situation. And for many older adults, being able to contribute in some way and support their communities is the silver lining in an otherwise dark and cloudy time.
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