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Got Any Health Care Experience? The City Wants You To Help Battle Coronavirus — Now

Here's how people with health care experience can volunteer to fight coronavirus in Chicago and across Illinois.

Dr. Rahul Khare and his coworkers operate a COVID-19 testing tent outside Innovative Express Care, 2400 N. Ashland Ave.
Innovative Care Express / Provided
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CHICAGO — As you may have noticed when you got a loud alert on your phone Tuesday night, the city and state are looking for volunteers — particularly those with health care experience — to help with the battle against coronavirus.

Everyone from doctors to medical students has a part they can play in the crisis to save lives, officials said. Already, hundreds of doctors, nurses and other workers have reached out to the state to see how they can help — but more are needed, Gov. JB Pritzker said.

Such volunteers will be “critical” to ensure Chicago has the resources it needs to manage the surge of patients who are anticipated in coming weeks, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Here’s how you can join up:

Who Can Volunteer?

Anyone and everyone can volunteer (or find work to do).

The state is particularly looking for anyone with any kind of health care experience, including retired professionals, medical students, nurses aides, paramedics, physicians assistants, dentists, podiatrists and more.

Right now, the city is gearing up to turn McCormick Place into a hospital. The following people are being sought for 12-hour shifts:

  • 10 physicians or nurse practitioners
  • 10 physician assistants (at least one certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support)
  • 35 registered nurses
  • 25 paramedics
  • 35 CNAs or LPNs
  • 5 mental health providers
  • 10 triage/screeners, including at least one registered nurse and one medic or tech
  • Pharmacy staff, consisting of at least one pharmacist

How Do I Sign Up To Volunteer?

Licensed health care providers can sign up to volunteer online for Illinois Helps. (Here’s an FAQ from the organization.)

Former health care providers can also volunteer. Those that need to have their licenses reinstated can find application forms here. Applications are being expedited. Once licensed, they can also sign up through Illinois Helps.

Medical professionals who live on the borders of Illinois but are not licensed here can also help. The state is making it easier for those sorts of professionals to practice here amid the pandemic. The application is available online here. Applications are being expedited. Once licensed, they can also sign up through Illinois Helps.

And those who aren’t a licensed medical provider can still find volunteer opportunities through their community and through the Serve Illinois page.

What Work Will Volunteers Do?

Volunteers are needed for all kinds of work. Those with health care experience might help directly with COVID-19 patients, but everyone is needed to help with things like planning, organizing, etc., officials have said.

People who are licensed medical professionals and sign up for Illinois Helps could be called to work during a surge in cases at a hospital or “alternative housing setting,” according to the website.

As of now, Illinois Help is looking for doctors, nurses, physician assistants and more to do 12-hour shifts at McCormick Center in Chicago.

What If I’m Part Of a Vulnerable Population?

Even if you are older than 65, have underlying conditions or are otherwise more vulnerable to coronavirus, your expertise is needed and you can still help while staying safe, officials have said.

Those who are more at risk from coronavirus can, for example, monitor ICU beds remotely, do tele-health work or focus on planning and organizing, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“From direct care to organization to tele-heath, there’s quite a range of options these different professionals [have to] help the effort,” Ezike said.

Will I Be Paid For Volunteer Medical Work?

Illinois Helps’ administrators are determining how to address pay, since not everyone will want to be paid for work they do through the administration, according to the website. Workers compensation and liability are still being figured out, as well.

Lodging costs will likely be reimbursed “in some manner,” but that is also still being worked out, according to the website.

How Many People Need To Volunteer?

As many volunteers as possible are needed, Pritzker and Lightfoot have said.

“We need you more than ever,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got to have additional resources and volunteers. … If you have training in any aspect of delivery of health care services, we need you.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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