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May 26th, 2020

‘Let’s volunteer and see what we can do’.

Simon Brouwers hadn’t worked as a nurse for 20 years, but when the call went out, he responded. Prior to coming to Cook, he had worked for 19 years as an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse and later a paramedic at the University of Amsterdam hospital. Now based in Amsterdam, Simon works as an Endoscopy global project manager for the MedSurg division, a career that has kept him in contact with his former hospital colleagues.

In early March, Simon’s son, who is a traumatology nurse working in the COVID-19 (C-19) pre-ICU department at the same hospital, expressed concerns that the hospital would not have enough staff during the growing C-19 pandemic. So, Simon decided to go back to his nursing roots.

‘There was a moment when I saw that they were looking for volunteers. There is something coming up here that we don’t know what it is going to be and how it is going to affect healthcare workers’, Simon said. ‘So, myself and my old colleagues said, “Let’s volunteer and see what we can do”‘.

The Cook spirit

Simon, right, at work in the hospital with his son, left.

Simon talked to his manager, who was on board, and decided to use his personal time off (PTO) to volunteer at the hospital. He took online courses in order to register himself as a volunteer. At this time, he is still working for Cook from home. However, there are days he may be asked to come in and volunteer at the hospital. At the time of our interview, Simon said that the demand for volunteers was not high. However, he explained that there is a chance that a portion of healthcare workers could also contract the illness.

‘I see my old colleagues working so hard and seeing the risk that they are taking and the possibility that they could get sick’, Simon said.

After 20 years away from the ICU, it was not realistic for Simon to go back to working in that environment. In fact, the University of Amsterdam hospital is keeping volunteers who have been away from the hospital for more than 10 years out of the areas where COVID-19 patients are being housed. The hospital has shifted all their nursing staff to work in the ICU. However, in the meantime, all of their regular work still needs to be covered. This is where the volunteers come in. They are working in other areas of the hospital, helping patients not affected by COVID-19. Simon described the work that the volunteers are doing as more nontechnical and more along the lines of basic caregiving.

‘It is more hands on, but it is a relief for the current nurses who are doing extra work, technical work’, Simon said.

Simon made it clear that he is not looking for a medal or anything from his volunteer work. For him, it is as simple as having a skill set from his previous career that can help people in need. While he acknowledges that his role in this pandemic is very small, he said every little bit can help.

‘I am very grateful that Pete Yonkman was very clear about when people can help and in what kind of ways’, he said.

‘I think that is the Cook spirit: taking care of each other. And that is what we are doing here’, Simon said.