National Nursing Week is May 10 to 16, 2021. To commemorate the week, the public is asked to share their photos and stories online using #CNA2021, #WeAnswerTheCall, #IKnowANurse, and #NationalNursingWeek. (Canadian Nursing Association)

National Nursing Week is May 10 to 16, 2021. To commemorate the week, the public is asked to share their photos and stories online using #CNA2021, #WeAnswerTheCall, #IKnowANurse, and #NationalNursingWeek. (Canadian Nursing Association)

‘We Answer the Call:’ Nurses vital to operation of 8-1-1 health hotline

National Nursing Week is May 10 to 16

To recognize the professionals behind the province’s 8-1-1 hotline, this year’s theme for National Nursing Week is appropriately #WeAnswerTheCall.

The Canadian Nursing Association said they selected this year’s theme to highlight the many roles nurses play in a patient’s health-care journey.

Nonavee MacDonald, a Fraser Health nurse who provides health information on the 8-1-1 phone line, says the pandemic has resulted in a spike in calls fueled in part by the provincial government and media advertising the resource. 

“We’ve always had a steady stream of calls that come into us, but even more so now,” she said.

Routine visits to the family-physician and check-ups with healthcare providers became daunting tasks as COVID-19 took hold in communities – many fearing to venture out of their home.

But thankfully nurses were there to “answer the call.”

“We’re there to help to support in the decision making process,” MacDonald explained. “There is a lot of hesitancy to go to emergency rooms and I think it’s great how our system has adapted.”

Operated by HealthLink BC, an arm of the Ministry of Health, the 8-1-1 hotline is a free-of-charge provincial health information and advice phone line available to residents across the province, including right here in the community.

A nurse helps work through a caller’s symptoms, MacDonald noted, providing education on how they can be managed and whether they need to seek in-person care.

“This is great service,” she said, noting people are encouraged to call back should they need.

Although the service was available pre-pandemic, the need for the resource and trained professionals on the other end of the telephone, was compounded by the COVID-19 health emergency.

In the early stages of the pandemic, the provincial government asked those who developed symptoms of COVID-19 to contact a nurse at 8-1-1 and arrange to get tested. Now booking appointments has transitioned to an online system.

But the phone line is a resource that extends far beyond questions about COVID-19.

By contacting 8-1-1, a member of the public can connect to a registered nurse who can assist with non-emergency health concerns, discuss symptoms and procedures, and recommend whether an individual should see a healthcare provider in-person.

“At any time of the day or night, every day of the year, you can call 8-1-1 to ask a registered nurse your health questions,” the province advertises.

But MacDonald notes the service doesn’t only connect the public to a nurse, rather it also provides access to dietitians, exercise professionals and pharmacists.

To celebrate National Nursing Week from May 10-16, the British Columbia Nurses’ Union said, the province has arranged for a week of virtual sessions including “inspiring presentations that focus on resilience and self care, as well as interactive fitness classes.”

To register, members of the union can visit

To commemorate the week, the public is encouraged to share photos and stories online using #WeAnswerTheCall and #IKnowANurse.

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