Already a Healthcare Hero: Incoming MCPHS Student on the Front Lines in Massachusetts
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers all over the world have been called upon to face new risks and unprecedented challenges. They have continued to do their jobs—and more—in the most trying of circumstances. As a healthcare education university, MCPHS has seen students, alumni, faculty, and staff perform bravely on the front lines in a variety of healthcare roles. We want to shine a light on some of these individuals and their work in the time of coronavirus. We encourage you, members of the MCPHS community, to share your frontline stories using the hashtag #MCPHSResponds.
Skyler Shipley got the news in March that the rest of her senior spring at Whittier Regional Vocational Tech in Haverhill, Massachusetts, was essentially canceled. The campus was closing, and all classes were being moved online. For most high school seniors, that would mean the disappointment of missing in-person time with classmates, friends, and favorite teachers. No weekend parties or sleepovers. For Skyler, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), it was an opportunity.
As part of a work-study program, Skyler had been working as a CNA at Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital in Haverhill, going into the facility every other week. "When Skyler found out that schools would be closed as of March 17th," due to the coronavirus outbreak, says her mother, Jane, she "told her nurse supervisor at Whittier Rehab Hospital in Haverhill that she would be available to work any and all shifts needed to do her part" She has since devoted herself to the hospital, her mother adds, sometimes working a 3-11 p.m. shift and then getting right back up to work 7 a.m.-3 p.m. the next day. And some of her shifts have been 16-hour doubles.
For Skyler, working at a hospital in the midst of a pandemic has been unsettling at times—especially since, as a CNA, she has close contact with patients. "I go in, I wash the patient up, I get them ready for therapy, I do whatever they need me to do that they are not capable of doing at the moment," she says. "It really has changed a lot since coronavirus has broken out. We don't have enough PPE—it's pretty scary to go into a patient's room when they could potentially be contaminated and not have the right equipment to keep myself safe. But we've been doing pretty well because we don't have any cases. Patients are put in a two-week quarantine the second they get there to keep everyone safe."
Skyler also takes precautions to keep her family as safe as she can. "The second I get home, I go upstairs, I strip my clothes, I shower, I put my scrubs in a bag, and I do my laundry so no one else has to touch it. I pretty much stay in my room when I'm not working."
It's an intense existence—online schoolwork, 8-hour hospital shifts, and quarantine in her room—but one that Skyler finds rewarding. She also believes she's doing what is necessary. "I feel that if you are going to sign up to be a healthcare worker, you can't back down when people need you the most. Yes, this is a really scary thing, but there are people out there who need me," she says. "If I'm going to do this as a career, I can't be scared to help other people. So I've been picking up whatever needs to be covered, working as many hours as I am allowed to. Just trying to help out those who need it."
As for her interest in healthcare, Skyler says it's been lifelong. "My mom and my sister have been involved in healthcare as long as I can remember. So I've always been around it. My first job—I believe I was 13—I worked with an ear, nose, and throat doctor. Ever since I started doing it I fell in love with it."
She's following that love by starting at MCPHS in the fall. She wants to be surrounded by like-minded people, all taking similar classes and driven to advance the world of healthcare. Her goal, she says, is to become a trauma surgeon; her premedical major will certainly start her on the path toward achieving it.
But in the meantime, her work as a CNA will satisfy her professional drive. When you try to thank her for what she's doing on the front lines during the pandemic, she replies with three words: "I love it."