Photo Courtesy of Walmart.
Jennifer Dupree has seen a lot in her 24 years with Walmart, but as the coordinator of the new Shreveport COVID-19 drive-thru testing site, she’s never experienced anything like this before.
The drive-thru testing site, located in the parking lot of Store 3868 in Shreveport, LA, is being supported by Walmart, Quest Diagnostics and local and state governments. It's just one of many drive-thru sites Walmart has launched to help fight the battle against COVID-19 — with more opening every day.
Jennifer, the Market Health and Wellness Director of Market 127 in Louisiana, shared candidly that the prospect of running a COVID-19 testing site was overwhelming at first, but the planning team responsible for the project was supportive every step of the way.
“There were a lot of heroes in the planning of this,” said Jennifer.
The site held a soft launch from April 8 to April 10, serving first responders and the medical community on the front lines of the pandemic. By April 13, they were up and running for the public. The sites follow CDC testing guidelines and are open to anyone exhibiting symptoms and to all first responders and health care providers whether or not they are showing symptoms. An appointment is needed.
Not surprisingly, running a COVID-19 testing site is a huge responsibility. In Walmart terms, Jennifer is the de facto store manager of the site. In her terms, she’s the “mother hen.” Her duties include everything from overseeing the day-to-day management of the site and coordinating with lab partners, volunteers, law enforcement, National Guard and pharmacists to help keep everyone safe and confirm standard operating procedures are followed for quality testing. Moreover, she serves as the chief motivator and caretaker for the volunteers and staff onsite; this often means reminding them to drink water and making sure they’re fed. By the end of the day, she’s exhausted but fulfilled to be able to help in this way.
The collection process is a self-swab observed by a trained medical professional, often a Walmart pharmacist, and takes about four minutes. Even while wearing full PPE, pharmacists strive to be a calming presence for those being tested as they instruct them how to self-administer the test in their car.
The Shreveport area's response has been overwhelmingly positive. Jennifer describes the community as being “amazing and thankful” for the site. The site wouldn’t be possible without all of the key parts — the community, local and state government, the volunteers and the pharmacists — supporting and doing their part.
“Everybody works as a team and is there for one purpose,” said Jennifer. “Everybody’s heart is in the right place and is there 100 percent to do the right thing.” She plans to make a scrapbook for those working at the site so they can remember this extraordinary experience during an unprecedented time.
The experience is not only extraordinary — it’s been humbling for Jennifer. As a former pharmacist, it gets back to what drew her to the profession in the first place: helping people. “The people are the most important part,” she said. “Every person is special — it doesn’t matter where you come from.”
Fittingly, as the mother hen, Jennifer refers to the site as the “baby.” Now that she’s been through the birth of a testing site herself, she’s guiding, which sometimes means video conferencing with, future site coordinators to help them through the setup and operating process as Walmart rolls out additional testing sites nationwide.
The team running the testing site — the volunteers, the pharmacists and the mother hen herself — has gone far beyond the call of duty, though they’d never describe it that way. To them, they’re just doing the right thing.
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