Wilson Restrepo, medical specialist and leader of a Red Cross team deployed in a long-term care facility

By Vanessa Racine, social media coordinator

 The Canadian Red Cross has been mandated by the government to provide vital support to long-term care facilities (CHSLDs). The organization has been hard at work to recruit a humanitarian force, which now counts Wilson Restrepo among its ranks. Here’s his story.

Wilson Restrepo, a psychiatrist, arrived from Colombia in June 2017. Since then, he has been studying to complete his Canadian credential equivalencies in medicine. Witnessing the crisis unfolding in long-term care facilities, he applied to join the Red Cross teams responding in Quebec without a moment’s hesitation. He knew that he had the ability and skills to lend a helping hand.
 Wilson Restrepo, a psychiatrist, standing arms crossed in a Red Cross vest, and mask and goggles.
“I joined the Red Cross because I knew I’d have the support of a big team. I also knew that I’d receive training, which I found especially interesting. The Red Cross’ international reputation gave me the sense of security I needed to get involved in this mission.”
In fact, Restrepo had already seen the Red Cross at work in his home country. For instance, he had seen volunteers helping people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. After graduating from medical school, he was also with a team that visited rural areas affected by guerrilla warfare, and it was the Red Cross that accompanied them to assist with negotiations. Even back then, the Red Cross was already giving him a sense of safety.
“One of the positive aspects of working with the Red Cross is that we can change people’s lives on a daily basis. That’s the greatest accomplishment. I’m proud of the work we do, since we have the opportunity to make a difference for residents in long-term care homes. We have to adapt to the specific challenges that this situation brings, and the Red Cross gives us the support we need to do that.”
He acknowledges that to work in long-term care facilities right now, three personality traits are key. You have to be empathetic (put yourself in someone else’s shoes), know your limits, and most especially, have a strong ability to adapt to change.
“The biggest challenge during this pandemic is having to constantly adapt the way we work in response to new public health guidelines. It’s a difficult part of the job, but it helps us become more adaptable so that we can get better at what we do.”
Every day in a long-term care facility is unique. For Wilson Restrepo, the emotional aspect is very important. As the leader of his team, he holds a meeting every morning before starting the day, because he knows that working in these particular conditions is demanding.
“I know I made the right decision. I couldn’t stay home knowing that I had the skills to make a difference during this pandemic. I want to get involved so I can give something back to Quebec, which has done a lot to help me on many levels.”
Learn more about the paid positions and how to join here.
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