BALTIMORE (WMAR) — As local health departments expand their contact tracing work force to control the spread of COVID-19, a few organizations are offering free training to prepare people for those jobs.
"Sometimes in your life, you hear things or learn about things and you think immediately, 'Wow I really want to do that'," said Susan Ingram.
For Ingram, contact tracing was one of those things. A journalist for 20 years, she quit to freelance and take care of her mother living in a nursing home but the pandemic freed up most of her time.
"So many of us feel helpless, you know I can’t even go help my mom, and I thought this would be a way to help in some way but also to have a paying job," said Ingram.
She saw contact tracing as a way to put her interview and research skills to good use and jumped at the opportunity to take the free training course offered by the Community College of Baltimore County.
"They even showed you the forms and how you're going to collect the data. It was very comprehensive," said Ingram.
She said she learned a lot. The course is designed to take a few hours, but Ingram said it took her most of the day because she really wanted to absorb all of the material. What didn’t hit her until she took the class, was the emotional support aspect of the job.
Contact tracers follow the chains of transmission, calling people exposed to COVID-19 patients and asking them to self-quarantine.
"They may be upset. They may be sad. They may be angry. They may be confused. It’s really your job to give them really good information to reassure them that you’re there for them," said Ingram.
The class also touches on trust and how to ensure privacy.
"The Baltimore County number comes up on caller ID and you let the people know that everything they tell you is completely confidential," said Ingram.
There are job opportunities through local health departments, including Baltimore County which will hire 50 contact tracers, and through NORC, contracted by the state to fill 500 positions.