Greetings from the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis, I wrote that the pandemic would touch all of our lives. What I didn’t know was that COVID-19 would soon take out a member of my immediate family.

Last week, my mother-in-law Helen Weiss passed away from COVID-19 Coronavirus complications. Helen was likely infected by an asymptomatic health care worker. Due to a lack of test kits nationwide, only symptomatic people get COVID-19 tests.

And, that is how a pandemic response breaks down.

We don’t fault Helen’s health care team; they are doing difficult work under extremely dangerous conditions.

But, COVID-19 testing is spotty and the contact tracing response to it is abysmal. States and localities are working hard to improve diagnosis and tracking of this insidious disease. And one job required to facilitate that informs our future of work.

In every state and the District of Columbia, thousands of people will be hired and trained as contact tracers.

Aided by the latest apps and mobile technologies, contact tracers will reach out to anyone who came in contact with infected people. As of this writing, we have no compensation specs to share, but contact tracing work is truly meaningful.

What does a contact tracer do?

According to the CDC, contact tracing is work that requires specialized knowledge and skill:

  • An understanding of patient confidentiality, including the ability to conduct interviews without violating confidentiality (e.g., to those who might overhear their conversations)
  • Understanding of the medical terms and principles of exposure, infection, infectious period, potentially infectious interactions, symptoms of disease, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic infection
  • Excellent and sensitive interpersonal, cultural sensitivity, and interviewing skills such that they can build and maintain trust with patients and contacts
  • Basic skills of crisis counseling, and the ability to confidently refer patients and contacts for further care if needed
  • Resourcefulness in locating patients and contacts who may be difficult to reach or reluctant to engage in conversation
  • Understanding of when to refer individuals or situations to medical, social, or supervisory resources
  • Cultural competency appropriate to the local community

It is a hot job.

Does this sound like you? If it does, please contact your state or local health department to fast-track your work exploration.

Meaningful work is often profound. And, in our lifetime, few roles are as meaningful and profound as that of contact tracer.

Our best days lie ahead.

DAN SMOLEN is founder of The Dan Smolen Experience, LLC. He is also the executive producer and host of The Tightrope Podcast.  Please comment here to let us know how we are doing, and, to offer suggestions for future guests and topics. Also, please catch up with our past blog posts, like this one and this one.  

Image credits: Contact Tracer, Antonio Guillem for iStock Photo; Helen Weiss portrait, Weiss Family.