Social Work in the age of COVID-19

Friday, May 1, 2020

Rachel Fowler, smiling on the left. She is wearing a mask and head covering. On the right are banners of support.

Renison alumna Rachel Fowler supports patients in a long-term care home

“If I wasn’t here, I would be wishing I could be”

Rachael Fowler graduated from Renison’s Bachelor of Social Work program just 11 months ago, but she is already a veteran of working through a pandemic. Fowler is a social worker in a long-term care home in London; one of the highest risk fields to be in during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Long-term care homes are the subject of media focus, as Canadian cases of COVID-19 have escalated in many such facilities. Fowler works in a home of just under 200 beds with (at the time of our interview) 13 reported cases; 6 of which are now recovered, and 3 have resulted in death. For Fowler, the impact of COVID-19 is felt daily, and is punctuated by the many changes to her routine. Her day now starts by donning full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that covers every area of her face, except her eyes. Those eyes have witnessed so much in the past seven weeks. She has witnessed first-hand the trauma of a resident receiving a positive COVID-19 test result, and she has counselled her clients and their families in dealing with this news. On a typical shift, if there is such a thing, her duties will include family mediation during Zoom calls, communication with doctors, and trauma and grief counselling. Through it all, Rachael remains upbeat and positive for the sake of her clients.

Fowler describes the moments spent with COVID-19 patients as difficult but important. She provides the comfort that she would wish for her own family members. “My residents feel safe with me, and I am sometimes the one person they can see, now that they can’t see their families," she explains. "If I can make one of their days better, and take away some of their fear, I’ve done my job."

Fowler’s work in a long-term care home has personal inspiration.  Her grandfather recently passed away and in their last conversation (held by video chat) he challenged her to keep fighting for those who were still fighting to live. Sadly, Fowler was unable to see her grandfather during his last days; her calling requires her to isolate from her own family so she can continue to be there for her residents. Her grandfather’s death, Fowler says, has reinforced her passion for her work. “I just focus on my clients and try to help make them comfortable and calm. Papa’s death put everything into perspective for me.”

There is some light, however, during this challenging time. Fowler describes the community support as amazing – from volunteer enquiries to the posters that line the fence of the property, and positive messages chalked on the pavement in the parking lot, each gesture helps her remember that the work she is doing is important – and would have made her Papa proud.

Renison Alumni like Rachael are helping to change the world. You can help too – please consider supporting Renison University College and ensure that we can continue to be a place of education and social change. Donate Now

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