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IN IT TOGETHER: A new role, a new appreciation for Niagara Health

Posted May 20th, 2020

IN IT TOGETHER: A new role, a new appreciation for Niagara Health

This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Kelsey Perri, a Recreation Therapist in Outpatient Mental Health who is working as a screener at our Welland Site during the pandemic.

Something that separated Kelsey Perri from her regular role at Niagara Health has actually made her feel more connected to the organization.

Kelsey was one of our team members redeployed to the role of screener at public and staff entrances at our sites during the pandemic. The screeners ask key questions, including about symptoms, contact with others and travel history, to ensure the safety of everyone.

Kelsey, a screener at the front entrance of our Welland Site, normally works as a Recreation Therapist in the Outpatient Mental Health Program at the St. Catharines Site. During the pandemic, some of our Mental Health and Addictions outpatient programs have been postponed and care is being provided through videoconferencing and telephone calls, rather than face-to-face appointments.

“I feel like being part of the screening team has made me feel more connected to Niagara Health and the larger scope of the hospital system,” says Kelsey, who has been part of the Niagara Health team for five years. “I’ve met lovely people who have been amazing to work with that I never would have normally crossed paths with if this didn’t happen. I feel closer to the more larger Niagara Health community.”

Describe your role as a screener?

We ask people about their travel history, if they’ve had contact with people who have travelled or if they are presenting with symptoms related to COVID. We want to keep everyone safe. We also answer their questions, provide support and help them navigate where they are going for their appointments.

How did you feel when you learned you were moving to a new role during the pandemic?

It took me some time to wrap my head around not having the routine of my regular work and thinking about our clients. I felt for them and the impact on them. Once I got to the Welland Site, I could not believe how friendly and supportive everyone was. It was far more comforting once I was in it and started to do the screening.

What is the most challenging part about your work during the pandemic?

It’s how people want to support their loved ones in hospital and the fact they currently cannot visit them or come inside with them if they have an appointment because of our no-visitor policy. The natural thing everyone wants to do is to be with their family. When we first have to give that news to people, you can see it is uncomfortable for them. But I think there is comfort for them when they hear us say that we will help their loved one get to their appointment. Or when we let them know that there are alternatives available for patients who are on an inpatient unit to communicate with their loved ones, like video chats or the telephone.

Describe a learning from working in a different role?

I have a greater appreciation and sense of all of the services offered in a hospital and all of the people who keep it operating.

Describe the team you work with?

They are amazing and everyone has been really supportive of each other. I also find there is a different sense of when people ask each other how they are doing. There is a lot more genuine concern of other people’s wellness during this time.

Can you bring your expertise as a Recreation Therapist to your role as a screener?

Absolutely. In Happy Habits (a group therapy program she helps to lead in the Mental Health program), we look at how to find optimistic perspectives and teach people how to find that because we do not come by it naturally. I try to bring that to the screening team and identify ways we can find the good and focus on the good when we are in the midst of something that is challenging for people right now.

How do you unwind at the end of a workday?

I love to be outside, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in my garden. My husband and I have some space to walk around in our yard. I try to be outside as long as possible to get fresh air and be active. I’m reconnecting with some of the things that I love to do, like spending time in the garden and spending time being in nature and listening to the birds. There are some cute little geese who were born in our backyard, so that has been some added entertainment.

Click on the In It Together button below to read more stories about our team.


Niagara Health System