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Screeners: New challenges, new perspectives


August 10, 2020 - Hospital Family Story, Stories

If you’ve been to any of Osler’s sites over the past several months, you’ve met one of our screeners. The smiling faces behind the masks belong to a dedicated group of volunteers and staff from across the organization who have taken on this vital new role to keep our patients and team members safe in the face of COVID-19. They check employee badges and ensure anyone entering our facilities has satisfactorily completed a questionnaire that asks about possible COVID-related symptoms or risks.

And they do so much more.


In the early days of the pandemic, Emily Cichonski and Patrick Soo assumed new roles as Screening Officers, helping to manage the team of screeners at Etobicoke General Hospital. For both, their new responsibilities make for a very different day-to-day than usual. Emily, an Integrated Health Systems Consultant, has been with Osler for less than a year, helping to create the Brampton Etobicoke Ontario Health Team, while Patrick is a Patient Experience Intelligence Specialist who normally spends his time poring over all the different data sources in the hospital to find ways to improve the hospital experience for our patients. Both say serving on the screening team been an ongoing learning experience.

“In the beginning, we had to jump into the role and get things up and running, but over the past four months we've worked really hard to create a formalized structure for screening,” says Emily. “It's helped make things a lot more predictable on a day-to-day basis.”

“This was a completely new role that was developed on the fly,” says Patrick. “So a number of things have been implemented as it evolved.”


For Emily, one of the biggest challenges was adapting to being on the front line as the first point of contact for patients, family and staff during a time when emotions are running high.

“When visitor restrictions were put in place, family members weren't able to be engaged in patient care as they would be if it was just a normal day at the hospital,” she says. “So before virtual visitation was in place, we had to be understanding and creative in working through solutions to help them connect with their family members. This has definitely been a bit of a crash course in patient experience for me.”

Patrick recalls when the screening team made arrangements for a family to connect with a loved one at the end of life on an active COVID-19 unit.

“They were understandably very upset, but we found a way to arrange for a virtual visitation, which didn't yet exist at that time,” says Patrick. “We were able to get an iPad up to the floor and had another one with the patient's family that allowed them to say goodbye. That really stuck with me.”

“This definitely was not a role that I ever expected, but I think it's really something that I needed to help me grow as a person,” says Emily. “This role is so unpredictable that you learn to become adaptable, resilient—just ready to take on anything that comes at you, which is basically the definition of what COVID-19 is like. Nobody really knows what's next.”

Patrick says that over these past several months, the screeners have become a cohesive team, with a great spirit of support and camaraderie. He’s especially appreciative of the positive attitude of the pandemic volunteers.

“The quality of the volunteers on our team is incredible,” he says. “They have come in—unpaid—for the past four or five months while a global pandemic was raging around and they always come in cheerful, with high energy to support staff and everyone. They all say, ‘yes, I can do that’. People have been so generous with their time.”