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We hear and read about the courageous stories of the dedicated healthcare workers and first responders risking their own lives every day to save the millions of people worldwide affected by COVID-19.  The NEIT community also has many heroes working on the frontlines and behind the scenes who would like to tell their inspirational story. These faculty members, students and graduates make the same sacrifice each day, and we are proud and grateful to them.

 

Shannon Regine, BA-RRT
Respiratory Care Faculty

“I am both a faculty member in the Respiratory Care Program and a graduate student in Public Health at NEIT. I have worked for over 11 years at The Miriam Hospital as a Respiratory Therapist, and now that I teach at NEIT full time, I still maintain per diem work status at the hospital. These past few weeks during our NEIT break I have picked up many shifts at the hospital to help with staffing holes and increased staffing needs. In addition to patient care, I have started teaching classes at the hospital for nurses as well as resident physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to learn how to manage ventilators. We fear that we will have so many patients on ventilators that we will run out of Respiratory Therapists to manage them and are training others to be our backup.

While I am on break from my full-time teaching here at NEIT, I have found it so rewarding to be involved in this initiative to prepare staff for the surge of patients that is inevitably coming in the next few weeks. As a per diem employee I technically am not required to work during this time, but I cannot even fathom safely sitting home while my colleagues are risking their lives.” 

 

Christine Stevens
Professor and Department Chair
Business Management Technology

“Working behind the scenes, I'm helping the South County Masketeers, a group of volunteers sewing masks for organizations around the state, but particularly in the southern half of Rhode Island. I was really honored to have the chance to sew 25 masks for the Rhode Island National Guard along with several other volunteers who were also sewing masks for them. I'm not a professional, so it took a while!  I've been collecting fabric, making masks when I can, and have reached out to my connections with Girl Scouts to start to involve troops from the region in helping the South County Masketeers as well.  I feel like I'm fortunate to be comfortable and safe working at home while other people are on the frontlines, so it's important to try to help, even in this small way.”

 

Kristen Thurber
Nursing Student - Term 6

“I just wanted to share my story since I have been working on the frontlines. I am currently a float CNA at Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, RI. At times, depending on what the facility needs me for that day, I may have to sit with a patient one-on-one.  Recently I worked on the COVID Unit with a positive patient and sat in his room dressed in my PPE for a little more than seven hours. I was only relieved twice from the room; once for my 15 minute morning break, and once for my 30 minute lunch break. I was unable to have a drink with me or anything else in the infected room. At first, as the time went by, I began to feel anxious and claustrophobic with the N95 mask on along with the face shield and all the other PPE.  I had to talk myself into staying calm. After about two hours, I finally got used to having the mask on my face. I was sweating tremendously which was making my shield fog up and cause condensation. I knew I couldn’t touch anything on me because of the germs that may have been on my gloves. Not only that, there were coronavirus droplets all over the room. My patient vomited on me, the nurse who came in to assist, and the floor. I tried to sanitize all day while in his room, but I’m sure more than just disinfectant was needed at some point.

There were so many thoughts that ran through my head that day especially not knowing whether I am passing the virus along to my family members whom I live with. It was extremely scary. This wasn’t my first experience with a positive patient, but it was my first experience doing a one-on-one in a separate room. Until this virus slows down, I will continue to take care of these patients and possibly sit in another room for over seven hours again.”

 

Cassidy Gomes and Wendy Torres
Respiratory Care Grads 2019

Cassidy Gomes (pictured left) and Wendy Torres completed their Respiratory Care program at NEIT in fall of 2019. They are working   together as Respiratory Therapists at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, MA. Wendy stated, “We are both amazed and proud to be working in this field, especially knowing that we are making a difference in so many lives! We never imagined we would be battling a global pandemic months after recently becoming Respiratory Therapists, but here we are!”

 

Alexa Laing​
Nursing Student – Term 6

“I work as an Emergency Department Technician at South County Hospital while enrolled as a Nursing student at NEIT. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have faced many challenges and changes. We have cared for critically ill and almost asymptomatic patients diagnosed with COVID-19, patients in mental health crises related to their fears, and patients with other health emergencies. We have prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. We don our PPE everyday knowing that we will make a difference, and I have never been prouder of my team for pushing through such difficult and uncertain times.

NEIT has prepared me for working through a pandemic. The instructors instill confidence and strength into their students, and I know that what I am doing is making my professors proud. I feel confident in my clinical skills I have learned with NEIT’s advanced technology and expert instructors. NEIT has prepared me for the “real world” in nursing, and I feel ready to care for patients with the help of NEIT’s nursing program.

As a soon to be graduate and soon to be RN, I thank NEIT for preparing me for the workforce. I feel proud to be on the frontlines helping people, and even prouder to be a student at NEIT.”

Elizabeth Raposa DNP, ACNP-BC, CCRN​
Assistant Professor, Nursing Department

“I have been working as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner in the Cardiac ICU at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut for about six years. I started working there full time, but became a per diem weekend warroir when I took a full time teaching position at NEIT. In March we started getting the SOS phone calls and text messages that the ICU’s were filling up and more staff was needed to float to other ICU’s in the hospital that were emergently converted from their normal patient populations to taking only COVID-19 patients. Having worked in critical care as a nurse practitioner for the last ten years, I decided to try and help wherever I could.

For a month I was displaced from my regular unit and found myself thrown into working with a group of surgical nurses, nurse practitioners, residents, and fellows that did not sign up to work in a COVID unit but were doing it anyway. I was welcomed with open arms. They were tired and frustrated but they still tirelessly cared for these critically ill patients that remained sedated on ventilators. Some of the patients had been there since the beginning of the pandemic surge, still on a ventilator. Teams of physical therapists roamed the hospital taking these patients who were intubated on ventilators with multiple IV’s in their arms and necks, dialysis catheters and tubes and rolled them over on their stomachs for 16 hours at a time to help their lungs recover.

 

I left the hospital every morning wondering which patients would still be there when I got back. Some lost their fight, but some surprised me. We saw people getting better, getting extubated after several days and some going home to finally be with their families. I had pressure ulcers on my nose and ears and had been desperate for a piece of gum or a mint while wearing two masks for 13 hours at a time with a face shield, gown and gloves when going into patient rooms.

After a month I did not have to float to another unit because the COVID census was so high that my Cardiac ICU was converted to a COVID unit as well. I was back home with the staff that I knew. They didn’t sign up to take care of COVID patients either…but they did it all the same. We learned a lot and changed our way of thinking, our way of communicating, our way of caring for patients. Food is delivered to the hospital by restaurants, community organizations and countless others on almost a daily basis to feed us while we work. The fight continues, and we are working strange and unknown times, but I have never been more proud to be a healthcare professional than now, seeing a world rally together to support us as we keep doing what we always have done and what we always will do. It has been an amazing, sometimes scary, but humbling experience working in critical care these past few months.”

Tasha Marsden RRT
Respiratory Care Grad 2019

“I started my career as a Registered Respiratory Therapist in February 2020 at Roger Williams Medical Center. I remember when our department first started discussing Covid-19 and the changes to the equipment we would need to make if we had a presumed or positive Covid-19 patient. Shortly after, we started seeing presumed patients here and there. It became more frequent to the point that they dedicated a floor just to these patients. I remember the first time I was paged to this floor to give a treatment to a patient that was presumed positive. I was scared and nervous. I remember going over the equipment, the PAPR, testing the batteries and the pressure. I asked the RN’s on the floor if I was properly protected, not because I didn’t know how to don, but because I was so nervous that I didn’t want to risk missing anything.

As I entered the room I reminded myself that the person on the other side was sick and needed to be cared for. This thinking is what I told myself from then on. The number of Covid-19 patients multiplied. I remember the day I walked into work and received my assignment on the ICU where there were several Covid-19 patients on ventilators. This was when I was no longer just a Respiratory Therapist but a Covid-19 Therapist. I would spend days in and out of their rooms making ventilator changes, checking cuff pressures, suctioning, giving medications, and doing everything to keep their oxygen levels up. I had been involved with several code situations with Covid-19 patients who sadly didn’t make it. Some needed to be proned, others were on dialysis because they had multi-organ failure and some of these patients spent weeks on ventilators. These days were challenging, demanding, and sometimes felt never ending; however, not every day was sad. I did have the glory to extubate a couple of these patients to hear that they had survived.  

Starting my career during a pandemic has given me an experience that I will never receive again. Going into this completely blind, other than hearing what had been done in other countries, has taught me just how knowledgeable and adaptive I am as a Respiratory Therapist. NEIT gave me the foundation and skill set I needed to be able to adapt to taking care of patients with a virus we have never seen before.”

Madison Allen RRT
Respiratory Care Grad 2019

“I am a Registered Respiratory Therapist at Westerly Hospital and started working in this department in December 2019. Every day I come to work I am faced with patients who have COVID-19. This has been a huge learning experience for me. I feel like I will be a better therapist after all of this. This virus is so new to everyone that we are all learning as we go through it. NEIT prepared me well because the faculty made sure I completed all my competencies. That way they knew when I graduated I was able to complete these special tasks with the knowledge and skills needed to perform them well in the working field.  NEIT also provided fresh knowledge that I was able to take to my department so even the more senior Respiratory Therapists could have more up-to-date information.”

 

Meagan Perez, RRT
2019 Respiratory Care Grad

Employed by Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, CT

“Never taking a breath for granted”

 

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