What would prompt more than1,000 residents from the island of St. John to plan to spend a day in October in a small, crowded, hot room just to get an annual flu shot?
“A strong sense of community,” says Sally Browne, RN and coordinator of the unique St. John CareForce event. “The people who come to CareForce each year come not only to take advantage of the many medical screenings and the flu shot, but they come because this is something that our residents have come to recognize as “their” health fair.”
The people come from all walks of life according to Browne, there are no socio-economic or cultural barriers. “Even the well-to-do people, part-time residents who could utilize their insurance and go to a private doctor’s office instead choose to take advantage of CareForce. It’s one of our premiere social events, if you will,” says Browne, “And, its diversity at its finest.”
CareForce is particularly meaningful to an additional segment of the population that falls between the cracks. To these people, CareForce too often becomes the only health screening or medical care they receive all year long. “Service to these people is especially important,” says Browne, “For whatever reason, they don’t come to the clinic for care. Seeing them at CareForce allows us to screen for illnesses that could be potentially damaging to their health and then refer them to the proper resource. It becomes a win-win for St. John’s overall health and we also are able to provide services to people we normally don’t get to see.”
Browne attributes the event’s appeal to a number of factors, but singles out one element in particular. “I have an extraordinary team of volunteers. Several are retired nursing professionals who spent their careers serving this community. Not only do they work all day on their feet, but they actually plan their October schedules around CareForce. They wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Although the handful of nurses are all retired and could be at home relaxing, these ladies look forward to rolling up their sleeves and becoming community health nurses again; at least for this one day each year. “It’s like a homecoming,” continues Browne, “lots of smiles, hugs and updating on a year’s worth of events.” But more importantly, says Browne, St. John residents are benefiting from free preventative care that will keep them healthy during the upcoming flu season.
As a key tourist area, St. John sees thousands of people from all corners of the world during the winter months. As tourists arrive they bring with them the colds, flu and other contagious ailments that are common where they live. St. Johnians need to protect themselves from catching these imported illnesses by making sure that they have received the proper immunizations. “And, that’s what CareForce is here to do,” continues Browne. “It’s a social and medical event that has long-term effects on our community. And, it’s an event that no one, caregiver or participant, wants to miss.”
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