HOSA students work through COVID-19April 27, 2020
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER — When Kennedy Begle of Jasper gets home from work at St. Charles Health Campus or Legacy Living, she sprays her shoes with disinfectant before entering the house. Once inside, she immediately puts her clothes in the laundry and takes a shower.
The steps are just a few of the additional measure Kennedy and other health care workers are taking as they do their jobs everyday. For Kennedy — a Jasper High School senior — and her classmates in the Health Occupations Students of America program, working through COVID-19 has been both challenging and rewarding. The Herald caught up with four HOSA students working as CNAs to hear their perspectives.
Kennedy started working at St. Charles Health Campus as a resident care assistant when she was a freshman. Now, she’s a CNA at St. Charles Health Campus and at Legacy Living of Jasper.
“Taking care of other people is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Kennedy said. “I love my residents and co-workers like they are my own family.”
As a CNA, she helps residents with daily tasks, such as bathing and dressing. COVID-19 hasn’t changed her daily responsibilities, but it has changed how she spends her time outside of work. Since the pandemic began, she said, she goes to work and comes home. That’s it. She doesn’t go to the grocery store or out and about because she doesn’t want to risk carrying the virus into work with her unknowingly.
“My residents’ lives are what I care most about,” she said.
Like many residential care facilities, the facilities Kennedy works in have taken several extra measures to ensure safety, including closing to visitors. Since the residents can’t see their families face-to-face right now, Kennedy said, she and her co-workers are going out of their way to shower the residents with love. For Kennedy, that means making sure to have an extra one-on-one conversation with each of her residents each day.
“You can tell just by their faces that they love that conversation,” she said.
Kennedy will attend Indiana University this fall and plans to pursue a career as a physical therapist.
Jasper High School senior Regan Mundy works each day to make connections with the residents she cares for at Good Samaritan’s Northwood Retirement Community in Jasper.
In the weeks since COVID-19 began, Northwood has increased its safety measures to require staff to wear double masks and to take their temperatures upon entering the building. The facility has also closed to visitors. That’s been hard for the residents, Regan said.
“This is a trying time for residents and families,” she said via email. “We are fortunate enough to have donations of iPads and personal protective equipment.”
Regan has been helping the residents and their families connect through the donated iPads and supporting the residents in any way they need.
“I wish the community better understood how serious this virus is,” she said. “I believe that everyone should wear masks.”
Regan plans to attend the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville this fall to pursue a degree in nursing.
For Jasper High School senior Maddie Vernon, the best part of her work as a CNA at Good Samaritan’s Northwood Retirement Community is chatting with the residents about their lives.
Maddie started working at Good Samaritan two years ago. WIth the onset of COVID-19, she said, her daily responsibilities haven’t changed, though she is doing more to help her residents stay connected to their families while the facility is closed to visitors.
“This is a situation that many residents struggle with, however, our facility has taken many steps to make sure our residents still feel loved,” Maddie said via email. “Families are able to send in notes that are printed off for them to read and families can also visit them through the window.”
The staff has also put a lot of effort into making sure residents can still do the activities they enjoy, even if it’s not in the group settings they’re accustomed to.
Maddie knows firsthand how difficult it is for families to not be able to visit during the COVID-19 emergency. She has a grandmother living in assisted living, and they’ve not been able to visit in person. Instead, Maddie said she’s been Skyping with her grandma. In her work as a CNA, she’s doing her best to help her residents and their families find virtual ways to connect, too.
“I hope that the public understands how serious this virus is and although it is difficult to isolate ourselves from others, it is what is necessary to keep everyone safe,” she said.
This fall, Maddie will attend Purdue University as a direct admit to the university’s nursing program.
When Jasper High School senior Bre Zehr gets to her job at St. Charles Health Campus, her focus is on making sure her residents can live as normal a life as possible during COVID-19.
“We’re trying not to let COVID-19 upset their daily life,” she said. “That’s still their home, and we want them to feel at home.”
Still, changes have been made. Bre wears extra personal protection equipment while interacting with her residents, and she often lets them use her phone to FaceTime with their families.
“It’s an honor to me to know that I have that kind of bond with the patient and their family,” she said.
While the facility is closed to visitors, helping residents stay connected to their families has become a key part of Bre’s job. In addition to letting residents use her phone, she’s also helped families organize window visits. Often, she said, the families come to the window with signs to greet the residents. Once the surprise is over, she said, they usually try to FaceTime.
“It definitely makes the resident’s day when their family does that,” she said.
Bre knows the visitation restrictions have been difficult on residents and their families, and she’s grateful for the patience families have shown the staff.
“If COVID-19 gets into the facility, it could be a very serious problem and affect a lot of people,” she said. “A lot of the residents have become friends. They talk to each other and are around each other a lot."
This fall, Bre will leave her job at St. Charles and attend Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion where she’ll pursue a nursing degree. Her goal is to be a traveling nurse.
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