Throughout the pandemic, Brooke Swingley spoke with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) members about COVID-19 risk factors, government guidelines and ways to stay safe from the virus.
“That was helpful for our members,” she says, “But I was also feeling overwhelmingly guilty I wasn’t out there doing something more to help. I thought, there has to be something else I can do besides shelter in my home to help in the grand scheme of things.”
Swingley is a registered nurse who treated patients in emergency rooms and urgent care clinics before joining BCBSMT as a wellbeing health advisor two years ago.
When the mass vaccination clinic opened at Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds in Helena and started looking for volunteers to administer the vaccines, Swingley signed up.
“I remember getting home from the first clinic and telling my husband — this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she says. “Everyone there has the mentality of being there to help make the world safer for everybody else.”
She volunteered through Lewis and Clark Public Health to administer vaccines at the drive-up clinic, taking advantage of a BCBSMT program encouraging employee medical clinicians to volunteer. Through the program, BCBSMT pays each approved medical clinician for up to 80 hours of paid time for spent volunteering to give COVID-19 vaccines during their regular scheduled work hours.
“Once you’re a clinician, you’re always a clinician,” says Dr. David Lechner, CMO of BCBSMT. “I think more than one of us felt guilty that we were not actively part of the front-line engagement to help people. So given where those passions are, I think it’s important to allow clinicians who wanted to get engaged in that fashion the opportunity to do it.”
The clinician volunteer program is just one way BCBSMT is supporting the state during the pandemic.
BCBSMT became part of a vaccination coordination team that worked to distribute COVID-19 shots to Montanans at high risk of life-threatening infections. The Care Van® program, sponsored by BCBSMT, has provided access to vaccines to help efforts to inoculate people experiencing homelessness in and around Helena.
As of July 8, 47% of the eligible population in Montana was fully vaccinated.
In addition to helping provide access to COVID-19 vaccines, BCBSMT also helped ensure Montanans could access the care they needed during the pandemic by expanding telemedicine visit coverage and fast tracking a telemedicine pilot program that enabled St. Peter’s Medical Group to meet virtually with patients.
As vaccination rates increase and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Swingley says she’s grateful she could play a role in helping to end the pandemic.
“Nobody is going to deny this last year has really been surreal for the whole world,” she says. “It was really cool to be part of it and it feels like this is the light at the end of the tunnel.”