Nurse Garrett Chan is “getting vaccinators where we need them.”

Garret Chan head shotWhen Garrett Chan, PhD, RN, APRN thought about the most effective way he could address the pandemic, he decided it was “getting vaccinators where we need them.” In his home state of California, that was no small task. Yet the Stanford Health Care veteran and President/CEO of HealthImpact, an Oakland nonprofit with a mission to “help share healthcare through workforce strategy, stakeholder convening and policy advocacy,” had the experience and vision to launch VaxForce, an organization responsible for nearly 40 events supported by 200 volunteers from all disciplines, delivering over 5,000 doses of the vaccine.

Dr. Chan also considers long-term, big-picture obstacles for the nursing profession. External factors like unhealthy work environments are not new. So, he thought, “what is the addition that has tipped nurses over the edge?” His answer? “I really do believe it’s some of the societal factors that are playing a significant role in nurses not being well: the politicalization of the narrative, the anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists and the effect that has on the population. The next step for me is, how do I analyze what has actually been happening…and how do we bring attention to the things that are not new and how do we address those issues?”

In September, VaxForce began a new telehealth program by nurses, for nurses and the community at large. “Trust a Nurse, Ask a Nurse” provides free face-to-face consultations, like VaxForce, largely to communities of color and other underserved populations.

“We are starting to call for nurse volunteers to help staff this free telehealth service and the concept is that when we look at people who are unvaccinated, we have to have a wide range of different reasons. On one end, we have the anti-vaxxers and the conspiracy theorists and frankly, that is outside of my area of expertise and I’m not sure if I want to spend any time or attention with that group because as a nonprofit organization, we only have so many resources and there are other people who are perhaps better equipped to take that on… all the way to people who are questioning or unsure or afraid. And on the other anchor, in my opinion, of the spectrum of unvaccinated are people who have first and foremost emotions: confusion, distrust, fear, uncertainty. And so that group is the group we can probably help support.”

Recognized by Johnson and Johnson as one of their “15 Nurses Who Disrupted Healthcare through the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Dr. Chan spoke with Regis College Assistant Professor Lawana Brown, beginning with a story about his non-traditional path to nursing which “speaks to the power of mentorship and guidance.”