Thursday, April 16, 2020

Penn College Nursing student helps bolster hometown hospital's ER staff

Connor J. Burke
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Pennsylvania College of Technology nursing student Connor J. Burke, of St. Clair, is among many in the Penn College family who are working on the health care "front lines" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 20-year-old is a sophomore on the Penn College baseball team and is in his second year of study toward a bachelor's degree in nursing. Since the summer of 2019, Burke has been an emergency room technician in his hometown hospital, working during summer and other college breaks.

With students told to remain home after Spring Break as COVID-19 began to spread, Burke has chosen to continue to work in the ER while juggling his course load - now offered via distance learning. He's moved from what generally had been an overnight schedule (11 p.m.-7 a.m. or 7 p.m.-7 a.m.) to working any shift, and is busy balancing work and classes.

"With this pandemic, people are in need of help and comfort, and through working in the ER, I feel like I can try to provide some assistance with this," Burke said. "Also, hospitals may start being understaffed if their employees need to quarantine themselves, and I can help by providing extra staffing if that happens."

As an ER technician, Burke's duties include performing EKGs and phlebotomy, running point of care urine testing, taking vital signs when a new patient comes in, answering call lights, restocking the emergency room, and aiding the nurses and physicians during procedures.

Morale is great, he said: "We treat every day just like any other normal workday. We are eager to help out and provide care to all patients."


"During this pandemic, there have been a few changes," he said. "However, all the care that we give is the same. Our shifts start with being screened for temperature and symptoms of COVID as soon as we get off the elevator. When we enter the ER, we must wear a surgical mask and protective goggles through the entirety of the shift. With suspected COVID cases, we use enhanced droplet precautions."

Burke explained that means that anytime he is near the patient or in the patient's room, he must wear an N95 respirator with a surgical mask over it, protective goggles, a gown, shoe covers and gloves.

"I have learned the importance of PPE and infection control through this pandemic," he said. "The biggest way to fight this virus is to stop the spread of it. Through using these increased precautions and PPE, it has taught me how important they are with all patients."

Asked what the public can do to help health care and hospital employees, Burke said: "The biggest thing that everyone can do to help out is to practice social distancing, stay at home, and follow the latest guidelines put out by the CDC. The biggest treatment in stopping this virus is to minimize the spread of it and decrease the number of new cases."

Meanwhile, Burke and his ER colleagues continue their mission of care.

"Other than being much busier with these cases, life has been the same in the ER," he said. "I plan to provide as much help as I can in the ER throughout this pandemic."

The Penn College nursing program offers five degree options, including traditional two- and four-year degrees, as well as pathways for licensed practical nurses to become RNs and for RNs with associate degrees to pursue bachelor's degrees. It welcomes high school and transfer applicants for entry each semester. To learn more, call 570-327-4519 or visit www.pct.edu/nursing.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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