College of DuPage contact tracer training program has trained over 300 students
Offered through its Continuing Education Department and in consultation with the DuPage County Health Department, College of DuPage's Contact Tracer Training program continues to attract national attention since its creation this past spring.
More than 300 students have completed the noncredit four-week program thus far and a total of 20 sections have been offered since the program launched June 29, said COD Continuing Education Program Manager Lorelie Garcia.
"We have completed 16 sections, and many students have reported that they have secured employment with either private organizations or local health departments to help the health care industry track the spread of COVID-19. We have a cohort starting next week with nearly 15 registrants."
As the pandemic began to sweep across the nation, Wheaton resident Randy Jeffay wondered what he could do to help keep his community safe. In addition, he was looking for work after his position as a restaurant manager was eliminated. Jeffay enrolled in the Contact Tracer Training program at COD in July and landed a job as a contact tracer case investigator in August.
"Public health communications require a balance between providing clear instruction, asking productive questions and listening empathetically," he said. "The COD program prepares you in every way possible. As a contact tracer, I play a critical role in trying to slow down the spread of this virus. COD provided me the opportunity to make a difference."
Jeffay works 40+ hours a week. He spends his days reviewing COVID-positive cases in a local contact tracing database. He then calls and interviews each contact, prioritizing the high-risk.
"It's kind of like a puzzle," Jeffay said. "I find out where each contact has been in the past two weeks, gather those contacts and then try to track them down. It's also crucial that I communicate how important self-isolating can be to saving lives."
Researchers at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health say 184,000 contract tracers are needed in the U.S. with that number expected to grow in the coming months.
"Many of our students who have completed our program have been hired by health departments across the nation," Garcia said. "With COVID-19 cases on the rise, we expect our program will continue to grow as the demand increases."
The program has been bolstered thanks to a generous $12,000 gift from Edward-Elmhurst Health to support scholarships and encourage program enrollment particularly among underrepresented populations.
Online coursework for the Contact Tracer Training program includes epidemiology, signs and symptoms, and an exploration of the practice of contact tracing as an effective public health intervention. It also concentrates on contact tracing techniques and ethical considerations, including HIPPA regulations, as well as cultural sensitivities and inequities among certain population groups.
Students must be at least 18 years of age, possess a high school diploma or equivalency, and have a general proficiency in and access to technology.
To learn more about the Contact Tracer Training program and scholarship opportunities, visit cod.edu/contact-tracer.
To donate to the Contact Tracer Training program visit foundation.cod.edu/donate, call (630) 942-2462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For further questions, call (630) 942-2208 or email CE@cod.edu.