Karenn Helmrichne talks to Dentistry Online about her experience becoming a clinical caseworker and what the role involves.
What does a clinical caseworker do?
As a clinical caseworker, I liaise directly with people infected with COVID-19 via a phone call.
My main duty is to obtain information about their COVID-19 infection and medical state, provide clinical advice, and obtain data about their contacts and whereabouts.
We encourage the infected person and their contacts to take necessary precautions preventing the spread of COVID-19 through self-isolation.
In addition, I will raise concern to my superiors if I feel the general public is at risk of contracting COVID-19. For example, if an infected person visits the hospital during the incubation period, I will need to pass on this information and my concerns to my superior. They will then make arrangements to contact the hospital and all the people present at the time the infected patient attended the hospital. This is known as an escalated case.
That is why it is so important that patients infected give all the information about their whereabouts to clinical caseworkers.
What training did you receive?
On paper, it does look like a lot of stuff to learn, but in reality, is not much at all.
PHE divides the training sessions into modules. Each module contains information about how to handle cases of people infected with COVID-19 and specific groups. For instance, a child would need to have their parents or guardian with them to assist with the phone call. Whereas an adult won’t need assistance as long as they possess mental capacity or are fit enough to take the phone call.
Other topics are safeguarding, data protection, people with aggressive behaviour, clinical and governance, HSE, amongst others, and, more importantly, sections to learn about COVID-19.
In essence, it is really like doing CPD. Which is something we are familiar with as dental professionals.
So, it is not difficult at all.
How easy/hard is it to set up?
I would say the setup is easy. The best part of it is that we do all the paperwork online!
Back in May, my online application took two days. By the third day various organisations contacted me to set up my computer to work from home, and get my login and passwords. Then I had my ID and DBS checks within five days and I was already working.
However, currently, the applications for this position have ceased.
What is your experience working as a caseworker?
I don’t feel overloaded by the job itself and you do have support if you need it. Additionally, there is a hotline during your working hours, so you are never alone.
On the other hand, I’m not going to lie, at times it has been frustrating. You might get an uncooperative patient. But, as in dentistry, you know how to deal with cases like this and in the end, it always works out well.
Overall, it is rewarding.
I feel pleased to help our society during this pandemic.
How many hours do you work?
This is easy because you get to pick your working hours.
There is an online timetable visible to all clinical caseworkers containing the available shifts (from Monday to Sunday). So all you need to do is to book yourself a shift at the most convenient time for you.
Why did you choose to do it in the first place?
Originally, I wanted to be redeployed to the Nightingale Hospital. But after assessing my situation, I realised I could not afford it.
I waited for new positions, hoping to help somewhere locally. Then Public Health England launched the clinical caseworker programme in May.
This was the best opportunity for me to take part against the spread of COVID-19.
How does being a dental professional help with your clinical caseworker role?
As a dental practitioner, I have great a deal of knowledge in the clinical aspect of controlling diseases. This comes in handy for the role – it’s actually essential.
As a clinical caseworker, you need clinical background. Part of the role is to carry out risk assessments, provide health advice, raise concerns, use clinical judgment, and work proficiently and effectively, just as you would in the dental surgery.
Having compassion, understanding, and a serene temperament also helps to comfort the infected patient on the other side of the line.
Will you continue with the role?
If my help is needed, I will continue to do this role as a part-time job.