‘A new normal’: Student health care workers share their struggles to balance work, school

Paige Ottaviano has been working as a transporter at UPMC Presbyterian in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. She stated sustaining a full course load whereas waking up at 5 a.m. for eight-and-a-half-hour morning shifts has been difficult — to say the least.

“Actually, the job’s kinda tiring,” Ottaviano, a senior psychology main, stated. “So it has kinda been quite a bit with college.”

Ottaviano — who’s liable for shifting sufferers backwards and forwards all through the hospital — is only one Pitt pupil who has labored in well being care all through the pandemic whereas taking courses. A few of these college students shared their experiences, together with a altering work surroundings and the way the non-public protecting gear scarcity has impacted them.

The U.S. dying toll from the virus surpassed 200,000 final Tuesday, with the US having one of many highest numbers internationally of well being care employees who’ve died after contracting COVID-19. As of Tuesday, the College has had 283 college students and 31 workers take a look at optimistic since June 26, with 214 college students and 29 workers recovered so far.

Amid the pandemic, Ottaviano stated her job has been draining bodily, however her early morning hours permit her to steadiness her work and college schedules. She stated selecting up early morning shifts leaves the proper quantity of room for afternoon courses.

“It blows sleeping-wise,” she stated. “However a minimum of I can get the whole lot in, which is sweet, and I’m not tremendous pressured about, ‘Oh I’m going to be tremendous late for a category’ or, ‘I’ve to skip class for work.’”

At UPMC Presbyterian, Ottaviano stated the hospital is returning again to the best way it was earlier than the pandemic. However she stated there are nonetheless many noticeable modifications since working over the summer season.

“Clearly everybody’s carrying a masks, and on the time, numerous elective surgical procedures went down,” she stated. “However since, I believe it’s sort of simply tailored to a ‘new regular.’”

James Mcleod, a senior nursing main and affected person care technician at UPMC Mercy, stated he has observed one change in well being care — having to reuse an N95 masks. Firstly of the pandemic in April, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention modified their tips for using N95 respirators, permitting well being care employees to make use of them for “repeated close-contact encounters” with totally different sufferers.

There’s nonetheless a scarcity of PPE, together with N95 masks, six months into the pandemic, based on NPR. This scarcity might make well being care employees, and due to this fact their sufferers, extra prone to the virus.

Mcleod stated he reuses N95 masks at his job due to the scarcity. He stated there was additionally a scarcity of isolation robes, which led them to modify the robes they sometimes use.

“The most important factor was that we had been having to reuse our N95s,” he stated. “So they’d get despatched outdoors the power to get decontaminated after which they’d get despatched again to us.”

Mcleod — who collects sufferers’ important indicators, helps them get across the hospital and does blood-glucose monitoring for diabetic sufferers — stated he labored within the COVID-19 unit over the summer season. He stated there was all the time a excessive threat of publicity, however an emphasis on limiting threat as a lot attainable.

“There was much more of a concentrate on attempting to restrict unfold if there was any chance that we presumably might have been uncovered to our coworkers or our different sufferers,” he stated.

Harry Morford, a junior neuroscience main and pharmacy technician, additionally stated working in well being care in the course of the pandemic has been tough. Morford stated he helped with COVID-19 testing at his hometown CVS department in Richboro in Bucks County, which was a part of the preliminary rollout of CVS’ drive-thru COVID-19 testing websites in Pennsylvania.

“After I began serving to out, they gave me all of the duty of doing all the COVID testing,” he stated. “So I used to be in command of mainly creating the format of numerous the testing procedures that had been achieved at CVS.”

Morford stated he’s at present serving to practice varied Pittsburgh shops to start COVID-19 testing.

He added that he generally struggles to steadiness his duties as a result of he rotates working between three totally different CVS areas. He additionally stated despite the fact that he’s solely technically required to work about two shifts per week, which totals about 20 hours, he often finally ends up working between 20 to 30 hours per week between the three shops.

“It’s tough to handle between all three shops and my very own schoolwork,” he stated. “But when my work does get in the best way of my schoolwork, then I all the time simply attempt to take priority in my schoolwork than my precise work.”

Mcleod stated working greater than the required hours is widespread amongst pupil well being care employees. He stated he solely must work eight hours each two weeks, however often picks up extra shifts. On high of his PCT job, Mcleod can be doing clinicals for nursing college, which he stated may be overwhelming at occasions, however he tries to keep up steadiness.

“It’s tough,” he stated. “Similar to another job you need to steadiness college and you need to steadiness your work as effectively.”

Morford stated that whereas he’s nonetheless keen on working in well being care, his experiences in the course of the pandemic has barely modified his profession trajectory. Morford stated he is considering pursuing a profession the place there’s much less interplay with the general public, corresponding to analysis in neuroscience.

“I all the time make a joke that the one factor this job has taught me is that I actually wanna assist individuals,” he stated. “However extra from a distance now.”