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Helping those helping us combat Coronavirus

  • 4 Min Read

In times of crisis, it’s crucial that those who can lend a helping hand do exactly that. While it’s true that many hands make light work, in the case of COVID-19, those hands must be well trained – particularly

In times of crisis, it’s crucial that those who can lend a helping hand do exactly that. While it’s true that many hands make light work, in the case of COVID-19, those hands must be well trained – particularly those of front-line workers.

While no industry has escaped the impact of Coronavirus, the health and charity sectors are particularly strained in the fight against the pandemic.

Hospitals across Australia are bracing for shortages of doctors, nurses, and medical support workers despite our best efforts to flatten the curve through social distancing and self-isolation measures. In response, Federal and State Governments are calling on recently retired health workers and medical students to help plug the gaps.

In fact, the Medical Students’Association says Australia’s 17,000-strong medical student cohort are ready to roll up their sleeves to bolster the healthcare workforce.

With so many new recruits, rapidly training them to ensure they understand the latest policies and procedures is critical for their safety – and the safety of those they’re trying to treat.

Given their proximity to those who have contracted the virus, front-line medical staff are at high risk of infection. With an already stretched health service operating at capacity, cross infection between health workers would be devastating to treatment and containment efforts. In Italy, for example, more than 10 per cent of health workers in the country’s epicentre, Lombardy, tested positive for the virus. This led to the Government accelerating the graduation dates for nursing students so they could take over for those forced into 14-day quarantine.

With such a rapidly evolving and dynamic situation, all these new personnel must be trained quickly.

While the pressure on staffing levels at hospitals, aged-care centres, and testing clinics is extreme, charities and not-for-profits who look after society’s most vulnerable face similar challenges.

In the wake of unprecedented demand, many charities are struggling. Not only is there a greater need for their services, but many of their volunteers are in the ‘at-risk’ group for COVID-19 and are forced to stay at home for their own safety.

This has led to calls for a ‘volunteer army’ to assist charities as they provide much needed relief to those who need it most.

Whether this is helping deliver food hampers, picking up prescriptions, or even picking up the phone to chat with isolated elders, this new emergency workforce must be properly trained before it can be deployed into the field.

Critically, there can be no confusion as to what the most effective procedures are – particularly around infection control. A single, trusted training source should be developed to combat the multiple mixed messages that exist. This source also needs be delivered to thousands of people without requiring in-person seminars.

So how can we achieve this?

A good example can be found in how the ICF delivers training to humanitarian aid volunteers across Europe.

The ICF works with the European Union Aid Volunteers initiative to match citizens with volunteering opportunities around the world. Each candidate must pass a mandatory training program to ensure they’re fit for deployment.

To work successfully in challenging conditions, volunteers need careful training to ensure they are prepared to contribute to strengthening the local capacity and resilience of disaster-affected communities.

The ICF trains hundreds of volunteers each year. In order to accelerate the deployment of volunteers to the field, it turned to D2L’s learning platform Brightspace to deliver online training faster without compromising the quality of education.

As the solution was largely online, there was less need to hold face-to-face gatherings. Furthermore, the platform enabled multiple courses to be developed that were specific to the role each volunteer would play and the region in which they would be deployed.

The crisis we face today is truly an all-hands on deck call for our society. To answer the challenges facing us, an emergency workforce is needed, and it must be rapidly upskilled to bolster the numbers of frontline workers.

Despite the pressing need, proper training cannot be taken for granted. Around the country, people are putting up their hands to help the most vulnerable in our communities. We can’t ask them to do so without arming them with the best preparation possible.

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