Health Science Students to Serve as Rensselaer County Contact Tracers

January 27, 2021

Effective contact tracing is one of the few proven ways to slow the community spread of a virus like COVID-19 and Hudson Valley Community College School of Health Science students will be aiding that effort this spring when they return for classes.

The Rensselaer County Department of Health reached out to the college recently to see if students in several programs would be available to serve as tracers for the county. School of Health Science Dean Patricia Klimkewicz said the work fits perfectly with many of our health science programs’ public health mission.

“We will have Nursing students, Community Health Navigation students and Dental Hygiene students who will begin the training soon,” said Klimkewicz. “The hope is that will have the first group trained and ready to start on Feb. 1.”

Students will be taking the online Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Tracing Course, which is one of the most widely-used and effective training courses for this critical task, prior to starting the work.

“This is fine example of how Hudson Valley Community College and its students can serve as a community resource,” said President Roger Ramsammy. “These students will be learning the critical listening and public health skills that will serve them well in their profession, and the college will be a strong link in helping stem the spread of COVID-19 in the county.”

The college will be hosting a contact tracing call center for the effort on the first floor of the Guenther Enrollment Services Center, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. initially, Klimkewicz said. Rensselaer County public health staff will also be on hand during the call center hours to oversee and assist the contact tracers.

Dean Klimkewicz noted that this work will count toward the clinical and service learning portions of the curriculum for Dental Hygiene and Nursing students, and the training is especially appropriate for students in the Community Health Navigation program, which is relatively new at the college. Community health navigators are trained to serve as a liaison between clients and the healthcare system at large. Serving as coaches and facilitators, they work in the community directly with patients, providers and other healthcare professionals to connect clients with services and provide support for those navigating the healthcare landscape.

“All of the students who participate will learn skills that will serve them in their profession: active listening, ethics, the importance of public health and they will get a real world understanding of epidemiology,” Klimkewicz said. “This is really a unique opportunity. Going to school as a health science student during a pandemic, dealing with the public in a public health crisis.”

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