New Initiative Aims to Train 1 Million Volunteer Community Health Workers to Help Tackle COVID-19



In an effort to lighten the load of doctors and nurses as they fight to save COVID-19 patients, nonprofit Volunteer Surge has teamed up with the Yale School of Public Health and others to launch an initiative to train 1 million volunteers as community health workers quickly, using a free, online program.

“Our entire healthcare system, especially in hard-hit areas, is now under siege by COVID-19.  Doctors, nurses, and hospitals, as well as state and city health authorities, are overwhelmed with the epidemic,” Sten Vermund, dean and Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health at Yale and professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, said in a news release.

“Task-shifting, which allows tasks to be delegated from doctors and nurses to trained health workers, can reduce the burden on our system and save lives by allowing scarce medical workers to focus on the more serious COVID 19 care operations while trained health care volunteers pick up other tasks,” he added.

At the time of this writing, there are nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 10,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and the pandemic has yet to reach its peak. Worldwide, there are more than 1,300,000 confirmed cases and nearly 73,000 deaths.

Health systems around the world, including the United States, are operating under unprecedented strain. Reports of the lack of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and even swabs are rife. And there is an acute shortage of doctors and nurses. 

“Every hospital in the country is thinking about backup health care workers,” Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, told NPR. He estimates a need for tens of thousands of backup health care workers in the fight against COVID-19.

Doctors and nurses across the country are heeding calls to sign up and help. Additionally, medical schools like NYU, Boston University, and Harvard are graduating their students early, so they can join hospitals and begin their residency.  

And Volunteer Surge and its partners are seeking to train 1 million volunteers as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and community health workers. For training, they will use a video-based online course that’s certified as “Ready CNA” by the American Red Cross. This course will take about 30 hours to complete. 

Once the training is complete, volunteers can build their profile and either be given a volunteer assignment in their community or one they can carry out at home by phone.

“Our country is in a time of great crisis. Volunteer Surge is a way for Americans to help in that effort and support our heroic doctors and nurses, who are on the front lines of this battle against the COVID-19 virus,” George W. Casey, Jr., a retired army general and former chief of staff of the U.S. Army who also provided guidance for the initiative said in the release.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering can sign up via this Volunteer Surge link. The training course is free. And volunteers who are experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19 will be given a small stipend.

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