Being a healthcare worker and student during Covid-19

I had the chance to chat with one of our Steering Committee members, Rayna, who is not only the Vice President University Affairs of Trent Durham Student Association and a communications major but she is also a part-time healthcare worker at Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, Ontario

Given the events of the past couple of weeks, healthcare workers have been working around the clock to keep our citizens healthy. The provincial government has also announced changes to aid Canadians, including students, in this difficult time. Because she’s been affected as a student, student leader and as a healthcare worker, I wanted to ask Rayna a few questions and get her perspective. 


As a health care worker, part-time student and student leader, how do you balance your workload normally? 

Finding the priorities and making sure you have a competent agenda to help get you through. I usually prioritize school first because you can’t get those experiences back. Being a student leader comes next for me because it’s a full-time commitment. Then health care, and I usually only do that when I can, but right now there is a greater need so I’m there as much as possible. 


What challenges do you face in holding so many roles? 

The biggest struggle is balancing it all and finding time for self care. If you’re constantly going from task to task it’s difficult to schedule time for you. It’s just about checking in with someone you care about and making sure you’re all good after a long day. 


What have you heard from students during the recent COVID-19 changes?

Students in healthcare programs are excited to make themselves available, and there are students who are still working in placements. There is a great need for frontline workers right now. The opportunity for students working right now, at an unprecedented time, it really invigorates them and helps them see why they are so passionate about this field and caring for people. 


What are some actions that everyone can take to help frontline workers like yourself? 

Staying home absolutely helps. The concern for some people is that they aren’t calling their family doctor first when they need medical attention. Right now, family doctors are setting up phone appointments with clients, so reach out to them as a first measure and follow up with the emergency department if the issue persists. In the event of an emergency, you should come into the emergency department. If it is a true emergency, we have the tools to help keep you safe and masks if necessary. The hospital staff have personal protective equipment so if you need 911, you should still call. Your life is valuable. 


What measures have you seen students take to help frontline workers?

Universities are doing incredible measures for frontline workers. At our Peterborough campus, we have donated the personal protective equipment (PPE) from our nursing program to the local hospital. More students are getting on board with 3D printing to create face shields and masks are being donated. Students are spreading the message about staying home and checking in on people you know, especially those who are vulnerable. They’ve been taking the role of being the person who isn’t immunocompromised and can help others get groceries and understand the importance of staying inside. A lot of people still want to go outside and there are still some trails and public spaces you can go to while practicing social distancing. Students have been great at introducing those spaces to people so that they can utilize them and go at less busy times. 


How has the government helped? What would you like to see?

Right now, we’re seeing a lot of effort from the provincial and federal government. Municipalities are stepping up in every way that they can. We see an effort made by the way the conversation is going, in that the government is saying they support us and they verbalize that they recognize us, see us and appreciate all the work that we are doing.


But what we need is everyone to coordinate efforts, and what that looks like is communicating clear and concise information to our frontline workers as soon as possible. We recognize that information and guidelines are changing daily, and that it’s hard to establish reliable data that informs decisions on the fly, but as soon as the information is available, we’d like it to be communicated so that we can put an action to it. 


What are some positive things you’ve seen in the past couple of weeks that have uplifted you?

I’ve seen a lot of positivity and I'm pleased to see it’s not just healthcare workers who are being recognized. I’m glad that other essential workers are being recognized with kindness and compassion towards them. For example, healthcare workers can’t do their job without grocery store employees. There are also many perks for healthcare workers that help us, like getting a free coffee, being able to go to the front of the line in grocery stores at a certain time — these are just measures that make doing our job easier.