“At first, it was really scary,” says Beverly Stevens. “So much was unknown.”
When Horizon Health Network asked for nurses to help with COVID-19 testing, she and Anne Terris immediately offered to go. They were initially told they would be working at the Moncton testing site for a few weeks, then their term was extended another few weeks, and again and again. In the end, they conducted COVID tests from mid-April to December 2020.
The work was uncomfortable. The women were standing on cold cement for twelve-hour shifts and wearing masks the whole time except for their lunch breaks. The site was in the arena next to the Moncton Coliseum. The huge doors at each end let in outside air whenever a car entered or left. In the spring and fall, it was often a cold and drafty work environment.
“But we made the best of a bad situation,” says Bev. “It was fun.”
“You know you’re talking to nurses when they say that twelve hours of sticking swabs up people’s noses is fun,” Anne adds, laughing.
The experience reminded Anne of the stories of people being in the trenches in WWI. “We were part of a team. We worked with new people and strong friendships developed quickly.”
“Every day was different,” adds Bev. Knowledge about COVID was constantly evolving and government policies were changing to adapt to the latest information. On top of that, the team kept changing as workers came and left. Each morning, the team reviewed the latest updates and developed the day’s plan accordingly.
“It was sad at times,” Bev says. “We tested people who were suffering because they had family members who were very sick with COVID. Some people came from other provinces to visit loved ones, but were too late; their family members had passed away before they could visit.”
Most (99% according to Bev) of the people tested were supportive of the nurses’ work. When many people left the facility, they would tell Bev and Anne to “stay safe.” Other people dropped off coffee, chocolates and thank-you cards.
“It really made us feel appreciated,” Bev says.
After a while, the two nurses became the experienced ones at the testing clinic and started to train new staff. Later, their expertise helped establish the satellite testing facility at Horizon’s Albert County Community Health Centre.
Rural Albert County has had several small outbreaks and, Anne says, “It’s great that people don’t have to go to Moncton to get tested.”
After nearly eight months of working in Moncton, Anne and Bev were relieved to return to their jobs at Horizon’s Albert County Health Centre in Riverside-Albert. Bev, however, just worked through the winter and early spring before retiring from her position.
“Doing the COVID testing was one of the highlights of my career,” says Bev. “I’m so very thankful to have had the opportunity to do that before I retired.”
Since May 2021, Bev has been giving COVID-19 vaccines at the Albert County Pharmacy in Riverside-Albert. Bev praises Kelly and Jackie (staff at the Albert County Pharmacy) for doing an excellent job of scheduling vaccine appointments to make the best use of her time and avoid the waste of a vaccine.
One of Anne’s new jobs as a nurse at Horizon’s Albert County Community Health Centre is vaccine counselling.
She encourages people to contact the centre (882-3100) if they have any questions about vaccines, about COVID or even if they just need someone to talk to. She stresses that she doesn’t try to coerce anyone into getting vaccinated; she just provides a safe place where people can talk about their concerns.
Anne wants people to realize that the health centre is their health centre and people shouldn’t hesitate to call if they have any questions. People can talk to her, another nurse, the social worker or other staff.
She also recommends that people don’t try to learn about the virus and the vaccine from Facebook or other social media. Instead, Anne suggests that people go to the New Brunswick website for information (www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/corporate/promo/covid-19.html).
Beverly (Bev) Stevens (LPN) has practiced in Riverside-Albert for her entire nursing career. She began work as a Licensed Practical Nurse in the Albert County Hospital which eventually became Horizon’s Albert County Community Health Centre. She retired from her role in June 2021 but continues to give COVID vaccines at the Guardian Albert County Pharmacy in Riverside-Albert.
Anne Terris (RN), on the other hand, just began work at the centre two years ago. Originally from Albert County, Anne had been working as a Registered Nurse in Horizon’s The Moncton Hospital. With retirement in her near future, she wanted to “leave the rat race,” come back home and work at Horizon’s Albert County Community Health Centre.