Illinois coronavirus: Retired, former doctors, nurses answer call to return to frontline of coronavirus pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the number of cases rises, Gov. JB Pritzker has put out an urgent call for licensed and retired healthcare workers to volunteer in the fight against COVID-19.

As the state gets ready to convert McCormick Place into a 3,000 bed hospital for COVID-19 patients, retired doctors and nurses are already answering the governor's call to come back into the workplace.

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"My background in bedside nursing so to speak, was critical care nursing," said Maria Connolly, a part-time nursing instructor.

Connolly retired from clinical care several years ago. Her license in still active. She is now one of the hundreds of health care workers who have volunteered through the State's Illinois Helps website to be called up as needed.

"I'm sure they would find a good fit for me. I would be prudent enough to go where I can do data collection, doing all sorts of family ambassadorship, being able to deliver care to someone who is maybe coming out of the ICU," she said.

For those, unlike Maria, whose professional licenses are lapsed, the state is offering an easy way to have them reinstated. However, not everyone is eligible.

Nurses and respiratory care therapists certifications must have expired less than five years ago and less than three years ago for doctors and physician assistants.

"There is still the credentialing piece that needs to be arranged through our hospitals," Dr. Paul Pedersen with the Illinois State Medical Society said. "There is also a liability piece.They either need liability coverage or need to be covered by the Good Samaritan Act, and those are always a little challenge."

Cutting through the red tape however, is something both physicians and doctors' groups say they fully support.

"The biggest issue is ... if we see what we think we're going to see. What is being predicted, we are going to need every single person, all hands on deck. And we need to embrace them if they're willing to come back into the workplace," said Susan Swart with the American Nurses Association of Illinois.

Over 180 retired health care professionals volunteered to be called up in just the first 24 hours the system went active.
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