With the burden on medical workers rising amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, reinforcements have been strapping on uniforms they left behind weeks, months, or even years ago.

Across the country, retired nurses are answering the call to return to the front lines.

“We’d had, in fact, multiple calls today from retired nurses, retired health care workers in various sectors,” Mark Joffe, an infectious disease specialist in Alberta, told CTV News. “They’re calling in saying, ‘What can we do, can we come in and help.’”

Nurse Della O’Neill is among thousands putting up their hands to come out of retirement.

“It’s a sign of the times,” O’Neill said. “I just think it is all hands on deck.”

Although the work is hard and the hours are long, O’Neill believes a nurse will never truly “lose that calling, even if you retire or change professions.

“If I can go back and help in some capacity, then that is great.”

Workers coming out of retirement could be manning health phone lines in Ontario or helping out with hospital rounds in Nova Scotia — help is needed all over the country.

“This is what nurses do,” said Claire Betker. “They respond, go where they are needed to go.”

In Quebec alone, around 10,000 retired health care workers responded to the call for aid. It’s a gesture that had Premier Francois Legault saying he was proud to be Quebecois in a press conference Monday.

Some retired health care workers, like Corazon Abdon, who is nearly 70 years old, are unable to return to work because they’re part of a demographic that is vulnerable to COVID-19.

But she told CTV News that she hopes to find a way to help nonetheless.

“My motive is to help people,” she said. “I love helping and taking care of people, that is my main purpose … I have to help them.”

Coincidentally, long before the virus had become a pandemic and the vital role of health care workers had been emphasized by the crisis, the World Health Organization had designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse.

In December of 2019, they warned that there could be a worldwide shortfall of nine million nurses and midwives by 2030, and said that the contributions of nurses needed to be acknowledged more.

In a press release published at that time, the International Council of Nurses’ Chief Executive Officer Howard Catton said “WHO’s vision of improved global health will only become a reality if there is a massive investment in nursing. The research evidence is clear: having more nurses leads to better health outcomes.”

It’s a message that rings even more strongly in the midst of an outbreak. 

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