PA Student Finds Opportunity to Help Respiratory Therapists

“This experience has reinforced my love for medicine”

By Savannah Potter, PA-S

Savannah PotterI was finishing up my internal medicine rotation when the COVID-19 pandemic began to worsen on Long Island. I saw firsthand how the virus was affecting the staff and patients at the hospital where I had my rotations and knew I had to help. I reached out to my preceptor and was connected to the department of respiratory therapy. I was immediately asked to come in and assist as respiratory therapy was being inundated with patients.

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Opportunity to help
I began performing ABGs, ventilator checks, transports, and anything the therapists needed me to do while they cared for their critical patients. I knew my help was needed as the number of patients being admitted began to increase . Non-ICU units were being converted to accommodate the increasing patient load. Patients were being transferred in from other facilities. Eventually seeing a non-COVID patient in the hospital was a rarity.

Even with the situation escalating, the staff spirit never wavered. The respiratory therapists took time to teach me about the different types of ventilators and always expressed their gratitude for my help. I came to know the patients and seeing their improvements reinforced my love for medicine. There was no greater joy than seeing a patient go from relying on a ventilator, to being able to breathe on their own, to being transferred out of the ICU. The skills I acquired in PA school allowed me to help care for these critically ill patients and that is an experience I will never forget.

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Advice for PA students
As a student it is easy to feel anxious or overwhelmed during this time. It’s easy to think if you are not in a clinical setting that you are not helping, but even actions that you think are small, such as staying at home, help in the long run. Some of us have been displaced from rotations and others are having to transition to online learning. Being able to adapt is a quality that all of us have as PA students and these circumstances highlight that ability. This pandemic  helps to show how integral PAs are to the healthcare team and how our vast knowledge can be utilized to care for patients. Supporting one another is the most important thing we can do right now. This is a unique time to be in medicine, with many of us uncertain of what the future holds, but we are all experiencing this together.

Savannah Potter, PA-S, is a second-year PA student at Hofstra University. She has been assisting respiratory therapists at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, New York, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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