For Kayla Purcell, of Webster, a sophomore medical technology major at SUNY Fredonia, the faces of COVID-19 victims don’t live only on TV newscasts or in newspapers. They are a part of her life as a patient care technician and member of medical teams treating patients at Rochester General Hospital.
“I am seeing patients, but I consider myself to be someone supporting the doctors, nurses and PAs who are really on the front lines managing the treatment of these patients,” Purcell said. “I love it, the people I work for, the patients. I love learning something new every single day.”
Purcell is assigned to 4800, the medical specialty unit where RGH treats COVID-19 patients.
With a career goal of becoming a physician assistant, Purcell planned to work this summer as a PCT at RGH to get a head start on the 1,000 hours of direct patient care most graduate schools require for applicants in their PA programs, but was summoned earlier by the hospital. She began PCT training in the third week of April, working 20 hours a week while continuing her Fredonia course work online.
“As techs, we work as a team with nurses, doctors or PAs, providing care for patients,” she said. “I take vitals, and am in charge of feeding and care of the patient. If a patient needs anything, they contact me. If I see anything going wrong with the patient when caring for them, I report to the RN above me.”
Purcell started running some tests, such as EKGs, and will soon start drawing blood. She sees COVID-19 patients every day, and as part of their care asks them how they are feeling, if they are comfortable or are in need of something.
“Whatever they need I try to get it for them,” she said. “Patients are focused on getting better, doing what they have to do.”
Purcell said she’s not concerned about her safety when caring for COVID-19 patients.
“I have faith and trust in the people around me that they are practicing safe procedures,” she said. “I know if I pay attention to what I have to do and follow protocols, I’ll be protected. RGH does an excellent job protecting us
“My floor is the only floor with COVID patients, so we have the most protective gear as of now in the hospital. We have to wear scrubs given to us every day that we cannot wear out of the hospital. If we enter a COVID-19 patient’s room, we need to wear full PPE including gowns, face masks and face shields, and follow the procedures for putting them on.”
About half the patients on Purcell’s floor are COVID-19 patients. The other half are vented/respiratory patients.
Purcell said her biggest takeaway is how much she loves the medical field. The RGH experience confirmed her decision to become a PA.
Her work hours will increase when the spring semester ends, allowing her to take on more duties and add job shadowing to her schedule.