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Coming Out of Retirement

People cheered the first trucker transporting a huge load of COVID-19 vaccines as he left the Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The news anchor exclaimed, “This just might be the beginning of the end.” That driver represented one individual in a long chain of workers besides doctors and nurses needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

A  few days before, an email from the state health commissioner had popped up in my in-box. Its subject line caught my attention: “Urgent: Volunteers Needed for Vaccination Campaign.” To me, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel now that a vaccine is a reality. I felt excited to help and answered the call without hesitation. As an RN who has given hundreds of tetanus injections to ER patients, I have medication administration skills to offer such an effort.

It took ten minutes to fill out the online application to join the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). Soon after, state and local MRC coordinators welcomed me to the organization and offered instructions related to credentials and training.

The first requirement was a Zoom orientation led by an enthusiastic state coordinator who explained how the MRC works. It was refreshing to hear the speaker advise us to take care of ourselves and only volunteer for what we can realistically do. She said, “Don’t sign up for an assignment where you’ll stand on your feet for twelve hours if you can only handle six.”  On the topic of HIPAA, the federal health-privacy law, I was glad to be reminded that divulging even the name of a person who comes in for a vaccine violates HIPAA. I also learned that our state’s MRC force already had 19,000 volunteers from the ranks of health-care workers and from the general public. Many of them have communicable disease containment and emergency response experience.

A second training session, with 1,000 participants, covered the COVID mass vaccination effort. Many asked if PPE (personal protective equipment) would be available and whether those giving the vaccine would receive vaccination. The answer to both questions was “yes.”

Now retired after thirty-five years in health care, I’ve usually turned down requests to volunteer, but COVID has been threatening my family and me for months. Thankfully, I’ve remained healthy, and it’s time to give back, again.

Marilyn Barton
Hampton, Virginia