Occupational Health & Wellness – Caring for those who care for others 

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Occupational Health & Wellness (OH&W) can be one of the best kept secrets within the workplace. They chug along in the background, helping to keep staff safe, assisting with personal medical concerns, and making workplace accommodation possible.  

The need for support of IWK staff is greater than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nature of confidentiality in OH&W work has them working quietly behind the scenes, making sure our staff are able to stay healthy and safe while taking care of everyone else.  

Shortly after the pandemic was declared, the OH&W team more than doubled in size going from six staff to 15 in just a few weeks. Former staff came out of retirement and extra people were brought on to assist at almost every stage of pandemic efforts, from registered nurses to admin and management support.  


The extra hands were needed, as OH&W started right away fielding calls and answering internal questions related to symptom screening, travel restrictions, quarantine orders, and much more. In the first four weeks of the pandemic, the team received over 1,200 calls from staff. The OH&W hotlines quickly started running on weekends to keep up with call volumes and to get answers to staff as efficiently as possible.  

That number of calls received does not include the number of calls that OH&W also made on a daily basis to IWK staff as part of their regular routine. While some day-to-day practices have been paused, such as new-hire placement appointments, the OH&W staff still hold their obligation to staff with health concerns outside of the COVID-19 scope.  

Fit testing for N95 masks has also ramped up in a big way. At any given time, OH&W strive to have around 800 people in high-priority areas fit tested, and at this time they are more than 98% complete. Currently, over 1,300 IWK staff have the fit mask test completed.  

The team still strives to go above and beyond during these times. Most recently they have begun supporting IWK staff who have been deployed to Northwood nursing home to assist in the outbreak there 

They have also recently collaborated on a peer-to-peer support line for staff. This resource will allow staff to connect with other health care professionals about their personal experience during this pandemic. The peer-to-peer support line allows staff to help one another within health care and talk about their personal challenges, coping methods, and continued efforts.  

“The pandemic is unlike anything most of us “seasoned” staff have ever seen in our careers,” says Barbara Whynot, manager of Occupational Health & Wellness. “The work has been very different from our day to day work, and we’ve had to adapt very quickly to change our work processes, who we work with, what we stop doing and even how we provide care to our staff.”