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Hamilton Health Sciences Home
June 8, 2020

Strengthening our healthcare system for all during COVID-19

Within hours of putting out a call for volunteers, almost 160 staff and doctors from across Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) stepped up with offers to care for residents in long term care homes and retirement homes. Among those who volunteered to work elsewhere temporarily were nurses Rhiannon Mullen, Heather Catterson and Rose Davis, all motivated by the stories they were hearing about the need. Their hearts went out to these residents and they knew they had to help.

Meet three volunteers

Heather Catterson

Heather Catterson

The three nurses have been working in a local long term care home, partnering with staff to provide care for residents such as dressing, bathing, feeding, and moving about. They also spend time reminding residents of infection control practices such as hand-washing.

Mullen is part of HHS’ nursing resource team which means she is assigned to different areas of the organization as needed. She is used to popping into different units and meeting new people.

Catterson is a nurse at McMaster Children’s Hospital’s emergency department. She has been a pediatric nurse for 15 years and is experiencing caring for seniors for the first time.

Davis is a nurse at Juravinski Cancer Centre. She has worked in many places throughout her 28 year career, so has been able to apply her skills in the community setting seamlessly.

A truly meaningful experience

All three nurses come from different backgrounds within HHS, but one thing they have in common is how much they are enjoying this new experience, considering the circumstances.

“Some of the residents have such interesting backgrounds. There are some married couples on the unit and a few that have told me they used to work in health care. There is also a published author. It’s nice to have the time to connect with those who aren’t able to see their family members and friends, or spend time outside of the residence,” says Mullen.

Rhiannon Mullen

Rhiannon Mullen

A supportive team

Of course, the job doesn’t come without challenges.

“It’s difficult when the building is home to these residents and some don’t understand why they cannot eat in the dining room, or visit different floors, or travel outside as they were used to doing,” says Mullen. “Some struggle to understand why day to day life has changed so much.”

But the staff at the home are friendly and supportive. Together, they make a strong team to support those who are at higher risk of contracting the virus.

“I have had such a great experience. The staff are just wonderful to work with. I’m learning a lot and have so much respect for long term care frontline workers,” says Catterson. “They were very welcoming and took the time to help me learn how to best care for each resident.”

Making a difference

Davis volunteered in hopes that individuals like her could help alleviate the workload and provide an extra set of hands during this unprecedented time.

“The residents are so sweet, it has been a pleasure helping them. I hope it’s made a difference” she says.

Like all of us, Mullen wishes the best for the community. “I hope we can all continue to work together to provide better care for those living in our community who rely on others for their day-to-day needs,” she says.