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UTHSC Students Screen Public at Call Center for COVID-19 Testing

A team of UTHSC students volunteer at the COVID-19 Call Center from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday to help patients being tested for COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Michael Brunner/UTHSC)

A team of UTHSC medical and nursing students have been working diligently behind the scenes in the fight against COVID-19.

Made up mostly of third-year medical students and nursing students, the COVID-19 Call Center, works in tandem with the COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at the Mid-South Fairgrounds to triage the public for testing.

Since opening on March 20, the appointment-only Fairgrounds site is able to test approximately 150 people a day, and has performed more than 2,000 tests.

“This call center has been critical, as it allows us to screen and prioritize our first responders, health care workers, and vulnerable public members for testing,” said Michael Brunner, M3. “Every single individual who is scheduled for testing is spoken to by a member of our team to confirm their eligibility, inform and obtain consent, update demographics, schedule them at the site, instruct them on important information regarding their appointment, take questions, and enter their information and orders into the EHR (electronic health record) for the testing site staff.”

Students at the call center work in tandem with the COVID-19 testing site at Tiger Lane. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Ann Roman/UTHSC)

Students staff the call center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Brunner, who has an 8-month old daughter named Elliana, said he is proud to provide this critical piece of infrastructure to the UTHSC COVID-19 response team, while minimizing exposure to loved ones who are more vulnerable to the virus.

“We all came to medical school because we wanted to help people,” Brunner said. “This is our chance. The hospitals are stressed and ED’s (emergency departments) are full. So here, we can screen people to see if they qualify for testing and triage them to take some pressure off of the medical system.”

Students are careful to address the health disparities affecting the community. Through the call center, students are able to work with patients who don’t have access to the internet in order to complete the health questionnaire or have difficulty completing the online survey. They are making an effort to accommodate those without vehicles by coordinating walk-up testing on a case-by-case basis. A Spanish translator is also available at the call center.

Students answer calls at the COVID-19 Call Center. (Photo courtesy of Michael Brunner/UTHSC)

“Viruses, especially a very contagious one such as this one, do not discriminate in their high infectivity,” Brunner said. “Those in our community with lower socioeconomic resources are at higher risk and can spread the virus without access to testing, so we are ready to serve all members of our society. The efforts to contain this pandemic will only be successful if those with the largest barriers to care are also able to have access to testing to protect their health, loved ones, and contribute to preventing further spread.”

Student volunteers are also helping at a local, state, and national level through providing data and quantifying the level of infection in Shelby County.

Brunner said, “This is a critical piece of infrastructure to the UTHSC testing initiative that is ready just for that, and we are happy to answer the call for help.”

The UTHSC COVID-19 Test Site is open to the public by appointment. Visit the UCH COVID-19 Triage Questionnaire or scan the QR code on the flyer below.


Editor’s note: This is story is part of a series of stories looking at how UTHSC students across the various colleges are contributing to the battle against the coronavirus. We are seeking stories about students, faculty, staff, and alumni contributing to this effort. Please contact communications@uthsc.edu if you have ideas for future stories. For up-to-date information and resources about the coronavirus, go to https://uthsc.edu/coronavirus/.