Life on the frontlines has never been more trying for those working in the healthcare profession. They truly are heroes and we're so proud to spotlight our very own Devan Martinez '18, a patient care technician at Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, New York, who shared his experience and reflection on what it's been like working and living during this pandemic.
by Devan Martinez '18
I was a biology major and graduated in the class of 2018.
I am a patient care technician, also called a nursing assistant, at Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, New York. I work on a medical/telemetry unit that holds a vast amount of patients with different diagnoses and problems. My job revolves around making sure patients have all their personal needs taken care of and being a right-hand man to the nurses. I bathe, feed, and watch over patients, taking vitals, administering electrocardiograms (EKGs), and helping nurses with their tasks.
My unit has currently been turned into a COVID-19-only unit, where one hallway has all pending cases and the other has all positive cases. This has changed my job tremendously as now I have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a gown, masks, face shields, and gloves at all times while doing patient care. We have also been urged to work longer hours, ranging from eight to 12 hours, to reduce the risks that arise when multiple health care providers deal with the same patients. My coworkers and I are still at a huge risk for being infected ourselves or spreading the virus to friends and loved ones, so much so that my co-workers and I can't go and see our families, especially our older family members. This made Easter a tough holiday, one we ultimately had to celebrate over the phone or Facetime to see one another.
With my unit being turned into the COVID-19-only unit, I see positive cases and patients with pending ones throughout my whole shift. Most of these patients are scared and stressed, and since we don't allow family members to visit them, we take on the responsibility ourselves to sit with them to keep them company and reassure them that we're doing everything we can, that we're here for them at any time.
For us, it is definitely a scary time. The patients with positive cases still need to be taken care of. I don't have the luxury of avoiding contact with them. We do our best to wear all the appropriate gear, stay covered, wash our hands constantly, and avoid touching our faces, but the risk to become infected is still very high. Even with the risk, I know that my work will be worth it, and we have already received letters of thanks from recovered patients, which means the world to my staff and I.
I think the biggest difference is having to wear the PPE all day. The N-95 respirator masks can be hard to breath in. We're mandated to bring an extra pair of clothes to change into for when we leave the hospital. Being only a few hours from New York City, we've begun to accept transfers from the city, so our acuity and overall census have increased, which makes things more difficult. But we're doing the best we can with the staff we have to make sure every patients' needs are met.
My main concern obviously goes to my family, whether it's making sure I'm not spreading anything to them or just keeping them safe, but my colleagues are on the front lines with me. We've had a few nurses and other aids unfortunately get sick and take time off. This makes me worried for them and their families as well as scared for myself because this shows we are not immune just because we wear all this gear.
Unfortunately, I think the first plan with my family is to get together to celebrate the life and unfortunate passing of my grandfather. With the pandemic guidelines, we were not able to hold a funeral for my grandfather who passed away in March, so we'd love to get the family together in that regard. As for myself, I miss my friends and usual hang-out spots, so getting back to my normal life will be helpful. I love the medical field, and I believe this experience will help me become the best physician assistant I can be.
As for my fellow Griffins, I want to thank you for the support over the last few months. I'd like to wish you and your families the best, and I hope you are all safe and healthy. Following the guidelines and social distancing recommendations are extremely important. I see every day how threatening this virus can be and urge you all to stay home until this is all over. If you believe you have been exposed, make sure to monitor any symptoms and avoid contact with anyone for at least two weeks. Lets all do our best to flatten the curve and end this pandemic!