Avera Medical Minute: Retirees return to volunteer at vaccination clinics

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 5:39 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Retired doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers have returned as volunteers to help at Avera vaccination clinics.

Dr. David Larsen was a family doctor with Avera medical group for 25 years.

“I think it’s really important the vaccination is really the key to this whole pandemic. And I just feel like it’s really important to help any way I can to get as many people through as possible and get them protected,” said Larsen. “As so it happened we both were able to get vaccinated, and pay it forward, help other people get vaccinated as well.”

His wife Dr. Karen Heiling also came to help. This is their second-week volunteering.

“Getting the network of retired people has helped a lot,” said Heiling. “Talking to some of the people they haven’t been to a restaurant since last March, and one lady had not been outside of her apartment until she came here.”

Most who come to the vaccination clinic are very excited about the opportunity. A steady stream of elderly patients come in, often given a ride by their adult children.

“But I believe immunizations are very important, and getting our at-risk people right now immunized and helping them. And in the long run, helping to control the pandemic by getting people immunized and developing some herd immunity,” said Heiling.

Susie Petersen retired last May, after 44 years as a labor and delivery nurse.

“I was saying congratulations after everybody got a shot. Everybody was so excited about getting their first shot, and the sixth lady I said, Oh my gosh, do you know that I’ve been saying that for 40 years to people that had a baby at Avera McKennan hospital, and now I’m saying it to people who are getting their first shot for the first time,” said Petersen.

Helping others has brought a sense of gratification.

“I’m doing something to help the cause, and it’s also been fun. It’s like old-home week. I’ve been seeing a lot of patients and a lot of employees from Avera that I haven’t seen for a lot of years, and it’s fun to touch base again,” said Larsen.

Those attending the vaccination clinic have a booked appointment and can have their second vaccination three weeks later.

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