Content provided by Palomar Health
There are many visible heroes in the fight against COVID-19 (nurses, doctors, scientists) that have appropriately received praise for saving lives and putting others before themselves. There are also many invisible heroes (volunteers) who are as equally critical to ending the pandemic.
Heroes like North County resident Will Woodward, who’s part of an army of volunteers at the Palomar Health COVID-19 Resource Clinic in Escondido.
“I volunteer because I’m now retired and want to spend my time doing something that helps people,” Woodward said.
He’s been volunteering at Palomar Medical Center Escondido for the past four-and-a-half years and jumped at the opportunity to direct traffic for people driving into and out of the old, downtown hospital for testing and vaccines.
“I think this vaccination effort is very important. I think getting as many people vaccinated as possible is what’s going to save us. I can’t imagine not helping. It’s just something that has to be done. Volunteering here makes me feel good.”
Another, maybe more well-known volunteer is long-time Palomar Health Cardiologist Doug Moir, MD, now retired. He’s been volunteering his time and training to administer the vaccine.
“The more vaccines we can get in people’s arms, we decrease the transmission, and with the decrease of transmissions there’s a decrease of mutations, and then there’s more healthy people,” Dr. Moir said.
Palomar Health Senior Director of District Services Brian Cohen says volunteers have been instrumental in helping him create an efficient process, capable of vaccinating more than 1,000 people per day at one of the only drive-through clinics in the county. The site also provides COVID-19 tests and monoclonal antibody therapy. Cohen said he had never worked with volunteers before and was shocked by their skill level.
“These volunteers are coming to us with backgrounds and experiences from careers that have really helped us, from process improvement to efficiency, to help us become more efficient. They come to us with ideas and we try to empower every single one of them to improve what we do.”
Volunteers are coming in droves and creating an enjoyable atmosphere for patients who might otherwise be sick, stressed and short on time.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Cohen said. “This North Inland County community has really stepped up. We were concerned that we wouldn’t get enough volunteers; instead, we’ve seen an outpouring of support from the community. We have almost more volunteers than we can bring into the clinic every day.”
Volunteer vaccinator and Registered Nurse Barbara Smith said she volunteers because it’s important for the community and fun to meet new people.
“This work makes me feel like I’m part of the solution,” Smith said.
Fellow RN and volunteer vaccinator Patricia White said, “It’s so rewarding. As medical professionals, this is what we do; this is why we became nurses. We feel that as many shots as we can get in arms, the better off the whole community, the whole county and the whole state will be. It’s a huge impact.”
As one of hundreds of volunteers, Carol Keigher, who checks people into the Clinic, said she’s proud to be part of the team.
“I think we’re bigger than a family here; I think we’re a village. It takes a village to do all this. We’re starting to see the end. It’s comforting and it’s worth it.”
The clinic served its last patient on May 1st and transferred resources to the CSU San Marcos Vaccine Center. Thanks to all the volunteers who administered more than 30,000 vaccines in a three-month span and served as a light at the end of the tunnel for our community.