TORONTO, ON – JULY 16 – Jeannine Harpell answer a phone call in her unit at the senior community … [+]
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Contact tracers are needed across the country to engage in disease detective work as they help track down people who may have been exposed to a patient infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus and encourage them to self-quarantine. Health officials believe it’s a key strategy to controlling the spread of the pandemic.
It’s a task requiring an intensive effort. CONTRACE Public Health Corps is currently working to identify, screen and train 25,000 contact tracers in the U.S. The company shares screened applicants with organizations across the country that are launching or expanding contact tracing teams.
Steve Waters, CONTRACE founder and CEO, says his company is especially seeking women and retirees for these positions. Typical pay for these jobs ranges from $17 to $22 an hour.
“Ideally, we’re seeking nurses or other clinical staff, those with experience in clinical medicine and/or public health, or with social work degrees and/or experience,” he says. “As the vast majority of nurses are women, this role is particularly well-suited to female applicants. Also, as most positions will be home based, at least for the near future, it could be an ideal job or volunteer opportunity for seniors and retirees.”
While experience in the noted fields is preferred, it’s not a requirement. If someone doesn’t have experience in public health or social work, they are looking for tracers who have strong interpersonal skills, empathy for individuals in distress and the ability to interact professionally with culturally diverse individuals. Fluency in English is mandatory; a second language is a big plus.
They’ll be tasked with sleuthing out close contacts of infected patients.
Under CDC Guidelines, “a close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset to the time the patient is isolated. They should stay home, maintain social distancing, and self-monitor until 14 days from date of last exposure.”
Contact tracing is a specialized skill and requires training, supervision, and access to medical and social support for patients and contacts. The CDC says requisite knowledge and skills for contact tracers includes (but not limited to) the following:
· Understanding and maintaining patient confidentiality
· Knowledge of medical terms and principles of exposure, infection, infectious period, potentially infectious interactions, symptoms, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic infection
· Strong interviewing skills with ability to have empathy and cultural sensitivity
· Basic skills of crisis counseling
· Resourcefulness in locating patients and contacts
· Understanding when to refer individuals or situations to medical, social or supervisory resources
· Cultural competency appropriate to the local community
Those interested in becoming a contact tracer may complete an online application form on the CONTRACE site, but Waters says you can also visit your local health department website and scan for contact tracer job listings.