What It’s Like Being a Frontline Worker During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by Clare Duffus

Pittsburgh is home to many healthcare workers, many being students. A great percentage of Carlow University students are pursuing a healthcare related degree. Some of these students currently work as frontline workers during the pandemic.

I work as a Patient Care Technician at UPMC Shadyside in their resource department. What this means is that I am pulled all over the hospital to where a technician is needed that day. Inevitably, I have been pulled to their COVID-19 units at times. UPMC has put the safety of their employees as one of their top priorities during this pandemic. Each day when I enter any of UPMC’s hospitals, I am screened for COVID-19 and provided a medical mask. The hospital’s café and cafeteria have plexiglass at registers and socially distanced seating is provided. In the COVID-19 units, there are instructions on how to prepare yourself for entering every room. Healthcare workers are provided with either brand new or sanitized personal protective equipment and their own N-95 mask for the day. A designated person sits outside each cluster of rooms recording who goes into what room, how long they were in the room, and what their risk of exposure was.

Marina Mellin, a senior at Carlow University, works at UPMC Mercy as a Health Unit Coordinator in their resource department. Mellin has also worked in the COVID-19 unit at Mercy. A concern for her is that important supplies such as N-95 masks, isolation gowns, and PDI sanitation wipes are beginning to become scarce. These are necessary to protect not only employees but patients as well. Mellin thinks UPMC is doing the best they can for the situation they are in.

Jenny Miller, a 2020 Carlow graduate, recently accepted a registered nurse’s position at West Penn Hospital with Allegheny Health Network. While Miller has not had any positive COVID-19 patients, she has had patients who required strict isolation because of suspected COVID-19. “West Penn is doing a good job of protecting everyone who enters the facility by having strict and limited visiting hours. I can’t think of anything that they could do better for us,” Miller said. “They have been very supportive and understanding that this is a scary time for everyone.”

Both UPMC and Allegheny Health Network workers have endured a lot these past six months. Pittsburgh hospitals are doing their best to keep protect their employees. These frontline workers are who to thank for continuously risking their lives and keeping patients safe.

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