West Coast healthcare workers took in a well deserved National Nursing Week celebration last week after wrapping up a gruelling stretch of community-wide COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
The team gathered outside Tofino’s Island Health unit on May 13 where children from the nearby daycare presented them with a banner that read ‘Some Heros Wear Scrubs’ along with personalized messages of gratitude.
Island Health’s lead public health nurse for Tofino and Ucluelet Karyn Bernard told the Westerly News that she was proud of both her team and the communities for coming together and making the April 12-30 vaccination marathon a success.
“It was really tiring, but everybody worked extra. Everybody worked long 12-14 hour days just to get it done. We were pretty dead dog tired,” Bernard said. “We’re anticipating hopefully being able to roll out second doses at the end of July, so we’ve got work to do between now and then. We learned some things with our first round that will make things even better for a second round. We’re excited for the second round.”
She added emotions ran high as residents received their first COVID-19 vaccine.
“We had a lot of people that were just super elated, people that were extremely grateful, people that were excited that the pandemic was potentially, sooner than later, going to turn a new corner. There was a bit of hope on the horizon so to speak,” she said. “We had people break down in emotion when they were receiving their vaccine…People were just really thankful and had a lot of gratitude for our team.”
Bernard was the clinics’ lead nurse for 15 of the 19 days and said her team was “phenomenal.” She added the team was made up of local healthcare practitioners and emotions were high for them as well as a light began to shine at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
“We didn’t have to bring anybody in from the city, so it was a bit personal for all of us too that we were able to stand there and support our communities and just go really hard for a couple of weeks,” she said.
The West Coast started its vaccine rollout in December with healthcare workers and seniors receiving their first doses and then received word that the province planned to go with a community-wide approach for Tofino and Ucluelet in April.
“There was a lot of work and a lot of preparation that went into that mission, for lack of a better word, to make sure that that could happen in a timely fashion for all west coast residents. It went really smoothly, the community was really receptive and we were really happy with the outcome,” Bernard said. “I was really, really, proud of our West Coast residents as they came in and filed through and sat with the immunizers, listening to the risks and the benefits and getting educated…It was a collaborative effort and it takes all the citizens coming and being able to support this in order for us to really be able to turn the tables on keeping the whole West Coast healthy.”
READ MORE: Ucluelet seniors receive COVID-19 vaccine