Volunteering in the Polyclinic Pan Am Games Toronto 2015

Canada Day was my first volunteer shift in the Polyclinic in the PanAm Athletes Village Polyclinic. If you don’t know what a Polyclinic is, you’re not alone. My understanding is that it is a European term that denotes a health/medical clinic that provides a wide variety of services – thus “poly” from the Greek meaning “many”. In this case, many services.

The PanAm Polyclinic provides all kinds of services from Family Medicine to a fully-stocked ER, Specialty Services such as Dermatology, Cardiology, Dental, Optometry – Bochner Eye Institute and Loblaws are donating time, expertise and hundreds of pairs of glasses for the teams – and of course, full Sports Rehab Services (Physio, Massage, Chiropractic, and Sports Medicine, Physiatry).

There is also a Public Health office staffed with City of Toronto nurses to deal with any outbreaks or other public health concerns – there are thousands of condoms on all the services desks for the taking – they are snapped up quietly by many – and not just the athletes!

I am one of 3000 volunteers in the Health/Medical Services at the Polyclinic and the many Competition Venues and Fields of Play across the Games. There are about 6500 participating athletes from 41 different Pan American countries, competing in 36 different sports.

Planning has been in the works for 6 years and has involved 16 different communities surrounding Toronto the north, west and east. According to the Chief Chef for the Games, 500,000 meals will be served in the Athletes’ Village alone. These Games are the largest multi-sport event ever hosted in Canada. The cost for public security and traffic management is in the neighbourhood of $250M.

If you watched the Opening Ceremonies Friday night – or better still were actually there, you’ll know that it’s all very exciting for Toronto!

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Post Olympics Excitement

Recently we’ve had two interesting opportunities to reconnect with some of the athletes. On the first occasion we met Clara Hughes at The Green Living Showin Toronto in April where she was a prominent guest speaker.

She was dynamic, excited, very well prepared and spoke easily to a rapt audience of several hundred people for more than an hour armed with an excellent video of the Games events in which she participated. After her talk she signed autographs for a large crowd of interested spectators. Continue reading “Post Olympics Excitement”

Is Time Right for More Polyclinics in North America?

One of the reasons I was very excited about my volunteer assignment in the Polyclinic in the Athletes Village was the opportunity to really experience inter-professional practice in action.

It has been many years since I practiced clinical nursing and worked side by side with other health professionals in the field. Here was the chance to experience this in 2010, and in a setting where many health professionals are actively working together collaboratively to meet individual patient needs.

Like other health professionals in the field today, I use terms like inter-professional practice, collaboration and team work regularly and often discuss the actualities of important current concepts like patient-focused care. This seemed like an awesome opportunity to experience the realities of what many might call “lingo”.
Continue reading “Is Time Right for More Polyclinics in North America?”

Evenings at the Clinic

Last night was my first evening at the Polyclinic. It’s beginning to feel really comfortable. Lots of fantastic people many from BC, others from all over North America. I worked with 3 nurses – 2 young fellows from Edmonton and another from the Royal Columbian here in Vancouver. All have taken their vacation to volunteer here for 3 weeks. They are all computer savyy so we get things organized together.

The sports med doc was from Minneapolis, loves volunteering at the Olympics. He has 3 young kids at home so he’s only here for a week. The other doc is from Quebec. We saw a steady stream of walk-in people until about 9pm and after that dead quiet. There’s lots of chat about where people are from and why they chose to do this.

I’m beginning to better understand the concept of a Polyclinic. Wikipedia says that a polyclinic is a place where a wide range of health care services (including diagnostics) can be obtained without the need for an overnight stay. Polyclinics are sometimes co-located with a hospital or may be located in another locality entirely. A typical polyclinic houses health practitioners such as doctors and nurses and provides ambulatory care and some acute care services but lacks the major surgical and pre- and post operative care facilities commonly associated with hospitals. Apparently polyclinics have existed for 10 or more years in Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and the former Soviet republics such as Russia and Ukraine; and in many countries across Asia and Africa.

In this Olympic Polyclinic working alongside nurses and doctors are volunteer physios, massage therapists, chiropractors, optometrists, and dentists. As well we have lab, pharmacy, Xray, MRI, and CT scanning – all staffed with volunteers. Multi professional services are provided to the athletes and their entourage, IOC and NOC members and their families and the workforce which consists of hundreds of volunteers who are stationed in the Village. There is no hierarchy. The culture is very respectful of everyone’s expertise and the tone is highly collaborative.

This is a fantastic opportunity to see inter-professional care in action. I intend to watch carefully.