This is Part 3 of our 3 part series showcasing students working on the frontline with Covid patients. This is Patty Newman's Story:
Some of the scariest words anyone could hear during the coronavirus pandemic are "You have COVID."
LVN Patty Newman, who said those words many times to patients throughout 2020 and early 2021, embraces her role as a health educator who helps people deal with the diagnosis. It's the best she can do because unlike most other illnesses, doctors can't write a prescription for it.
"The toughest part is that we don't have any treatment for it," she said. "There's not really any medication you can prescribe that you know is going cure it."
Embracing Career Change
After Patty graduated from college, she worked about 20 years in finance. But it wasn't fulfilling and she saw a job layoff as an opportunity to do what she always wanted to do - nursing.
She enrolled in the Vocational Nursing program at Concorde Career College's Dallas campus, where she encountered much more technology than when she last attended school, as well as younger classmates.
"I was the second oldest in my class at Concorde and was nervous about it," she said. "But I got along great with my classmates and still keep in touch with a lot of them. I loved all my instructors."
She excelled during her time at Concorde and graduated in November 2019, just months before the pandemic hit full force. She was ready for her new career because she had learned all the necessary skills in the classroom and at clinicals, including how to use personal protective equipment (PPE).
"I'm thankful I learned about (PPE) because over the past year it's definitely been a godsend to have all of that," she said.
Urgent Care During COVID
Patty started working in an urgent care center in the Dallas Metroplex in early 2020, helping patients who had a variety of illnesses and ailments. But soon after, coronavirus cases became her primary focus. She performed numerous Covid tests and going through the same PPE routine each time.
"All of a sudden we were required to wear all this PPE - put it on, go in the room, take it off, put it back on," she said. "We had to learn what PPE is best in different situations and about all the different swabs for testing."
Patty also helped sanitize rooms after each patient visit, which helped to greatly reduce coronavirus risk.
"It was a lot to get used to, and not what I anticipated just getting out of school," she said.
The most intense COVID wave was in the summer of 2020.
"We do 14 hours shifts, and when you went in you just knew from start to finish it was primarily going to be COVID care," she said.
A positive COVID diagnosis came as a shock to many patients, Patty said, and she tried to help them understand what they needed to do to get better. The toughest patients were those who waited too long to come in, but had severe symptoms such as pneumonia, and were transported to a hospital.
By spring 2021, the cases had slowed, although Patty still was conducting tests 25% of the time.
As stressful as the first year of her work life was, Patty thoroughly enjoyed it. "It might not have been exactly what I thought it was going to be coming out of school but I still get to help people every day and do what I went to school to do."
She also appreciates that the patient case load has now gone back to normal at the urgent care center.
"That's what I love about urgent care," Patty said. "You just never know what's going to come through the door."