OTTAWA -- Joselyn Banks retired from her position as clinical manager at the Ottawa Hospital in December after a 35-year nursing career.

She was celebrated by colleagues and family and made plans for a trip to Florida in the spring.  But when March rolled around Banks found herself suiting up, not in leisure wear, but in personal protective equipment.  A pandemic had arrived in Ottawa and Banks had no intention of sitting on the sidelines.

“It was actually a quick decision.  I called my former director and told him I was ready and able to go back to work if needed, and all my friends and family were very supportive of that.”

Banks is not alone.  At the Brewer Arena Assessment Centre where she’s been stationed since it opened its doors in mid-March, she is working with a number of her former colleagues including some who made the same decision to return from retirement. 

Banks says it has been great to reunite, adding there was no trepidation in wading into unknown territory and putting herself on the ultimate frontline at Brewer Arena. 

“I didn’t find that.  I felt we had what we needed. I feel very safe here.  And when we come to work here, part of our role as managers is to make sure all the staff is kept safe and members of the community that go through here as patients are kept safe as well.”

Banks also has her eye on the long-term care homes in Ottawa.  She herself has a loved one in long-term care.  On days off she makes times for window visits.  On workdays, her responsibilities now include trips into those homes to test residents and staff.  She says it makes it easier to cope when you know you are part of the solution.

“I feel that’s actually a benefit for everyone and certainly myself to know the testing is now being done in long-term care homes.”

In her downtime, Banks makes sure she eats and sleeps well, takes walks to get a little fresh air and makes connecting virtually with friends and family a priority. 

“So I can keep myself well enough to continue the job and come back to work every day.”

At least for now.  A second retirement is in the works at some point, but Banks doesn’t know when.

“I have no idea.  With the information we receive about work, it is sort of a day-to-day thing right now.  So I have no idea when.”

Florida will wait.  Right now, Banks feels she is right where she should be.  Answering the call to help her community, just as she did as a nurse for those 35 years.  And during this National Nursing Week, she is saluting others who made the same choice.

“A shout out to all my fellow nurses, all my former colleagues at TOH.  They’re all wonderful.”