UNC Health volunteer program gives healthcare workers a 'Helping Hand'

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- We could all use a hand sometimes, and it's no different for healthcare workers at UNC Health.

An effort underway there is called "Helping Hands." It's recruiting various people from other parts of the organization and the community at large to volunteer to help in clinical areas during this pandemic surge.

So far, there are more than 400 volunteers and counting. The helpers include some retirees, students, and others.

Jill Forcina is one of those. She is in an administrative/leadership role with NC AHEC, a health advocacy and education initiative, but recently started working shifts at one of UNC Health's monoclonal antibody clinics in Chapel Hill.

It's the first time in more than a year that she's done bedside nursing but she wanted to help out. She has a background as an oncology nurse, so she wasn't too rusty.

"Nurses are under an enormous amount of pressure, so I guess I was going to walk the walk and talk the talk," Forcina said.

Forcina is no stranger to that pressure. The 20-year healthcare veteran and mother of three works as a healthcare recruiter but is putting the scrubs back on and heading back to the front lines.

"I think that's what nursing is all about, they have been stepping up for a year-and-a-half, and I think right now like you said, it's serious, and when nurses ask for help, they need help," she said.

Angela Overman, Director of Surgery Services at UNC Hospitals, said this pandemic has made staffing a challenge with many retiring early and others leaving the profession altogether.

"There is a very real shortage and we do believe the shortage will get worse," she said.

Overman said she hopes this new volunteer program will attract more than just former and retired health care workers.

"Former healthcare employees, students, retirees, UNC staff," Overman said. "Anyone who just wants to pick up time and assist with the pandemic."

And though the Helping Hands program won't solve the need for more nurses and health care professionals, many who are in the program like Forcina are more than just extra hands; they are a part of a bigger team in a fight that isn't quite over yet.

"Everybody in nursing always comes together, and it's nice to feel accepted as part of the team," Forcina said. "This experience has shown me why I got into nursing in the first place."

Interested in volunteering? Find out more here.
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