Carolina People

Carolina People: Jenna Pauli

Well before COVID-19, Pauli helped keep Carolina employees healthy and safe, but her contact-tracing work has been especially important during Carolina’s response to the pandemic.

Jenna Pauli in COVID-19 mask in doctor's office.
“When I’m not seeing patients, a large part of my day — at least since the pandemic started — is covering COVID concerns,” including making contact-tracing calls, says Jenna Pauli. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Jenna Pauli
nurse
University Employee Occupational Health Clinic
2 years at Carolina

Describe a typical day in your job.

Since we serve Carolina employees, a typical day might include seeing patients for anything from immunization reviews — looking at immunizations like measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and hepatitis B — to safety mask fit-testing, which includes N95s, half-face and full-face self-contained breathing apparatus masks, to all other physicals for specific department types. For example, the Division of Comparative Medicine requires a specific physical.

When I’m not seeing patients, a large part of my day — at least since the pandemic started — is covering COVID concerns. Calling and talking to employees about exposure, doing contact tracing, helping them find testing if they have symptoms and if they test positive, talking them through quarantine and isolating from people.

And currently, we’re doing flu shots.

How does your job support Carolina?

By providing all of these services to employees, we are able to support the health and safety of faculty and staff, which is paramount in helping us protect everyone on campus, including students, visitors and employees.

How does contact tracing work and why is it important?

Contact tracing helps us follow COVID trends and the spread of infection among employees — and sometimes students, as we work closely with Campus Health and have a lot students who are also employees. If someone tests positive, we’re able to determine if they were at work during their infectious period, if they were fully masked and if they came into contact with anybody for more than 15 minutes. And if they were, we get those names and we call them, we give them instructions on testing and what to look for to help minimize risks.

What accomplishment or moment in your work at Carolina are you proudest of?

What we’ve done this past year has been really hard. With the small staff we have, we pulled off a great amount of work. We’ve contacted over 7,000 employees at this point, probably even more. And I think keeping a line open to the employees so they have someone to contact with any questions and concerns in this very interesting time we live in nowadays is awesome.

What inspires you every day?

The people I work with. They are amazing. I’ve never worked with any group of people who are so dedicated. They’re also lighthearted, and they make it a joy to work, even when we do get really busy. Just knowing that they have your back, it’s great.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to read a lot of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, kind of the whole genre range. Currently, I’m trying to learn how to knit. Our physician assistant just went out on maternity leave a couple months ago, so I’m trying to knit her a baby blanket. It’s definitely a process, but it’s fun.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

It’s just important that employees do call us when they have any COVID questions and that they know that we’re open and available for them with any concern.