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Endicott College nursing student Heather PozziJunior biology/biotechnology student Heather Pozzi is balancing online classes and her job as a clinical nursing assistant at a North Shore hospital. As this pandemic evolves and disrupts, she sees patients in their most vulnerable state. She’s committed to providing quality care and comfort—while feeling grateful for the opportunity.

Pozzi describes her new normal as balancing at-home remote learning with her direct dealings of COVID-19’s adverse effects at her hospital job. As tough as working the front lines is, she sees it as an important learning opportunity that is preparing her for her future career as a physician assistant (PA).

“I have worked at [a North Shore hospital] for about a year and a half, and I am so grateful for everything that I have learned there,” she says. “Every day I am exposed to something new, whether it is big or small, and come in contact with people from all walks of life. More recently, I’ve been adapting to the detrimental effects of COVID-19, as it now has full control on how we do our job and interact with patients.”

The hospital has to continually plan and respond with fluidity as this pandemic evolves and supplies run low. Limited personal protective equipment (PPE) is available and procedures have been adapted as a result.

In order to stretch PPE, Pozzi says, “I have changed the ways that I do my job by grouping my tasks…Instead of entering into the room each hour to check on my patients, it has now evolved into me cracking the door to check on them, and ask if they need anything so that I only enter when necessary.” This is a challenge for her as she loves the patient interaction part of her job, but the change in procedure helps prolong the N-95 mask supply. The hospital’s supply of gowns is critically low and Endicott College recently donated 2,800 ponchos to the hospital to help.

Pozzi’s homelife has also been affected by the coronavirus public health crisis and that has been especially hard to for her to cope with. “Prior to this pandemic, I was living at Endicott with my friends, attending classes, meeting with professors, and participating in normal college activities,” she says. “Today, I am living at home where I wake up in my bedroom, sit down at my desk less than a foot away from bed, and begin my day of classes. This has been one of the most dramatic adjustments.”

Challenging is one of the many words to describe this shift. But, Pozzi is “grateful for the professors who are so willing and available to video chat via Zoom to help us succeed during this difficult time.”

She also finds comfort, support, and motivation at the hospital where she sees patients in their most vulnerable state. She’s driven to do anything she can to make them feel more comfortable. “To do this, I must be understanding, empathetic, and most importantly just listen about the life they live,” Pozzi says. “This pandemic has taught me all of those things and so much more. It is saddening to see what people are going through, but having a ‘front row seat’ for this event makes me more humble and grateful for having the opportunity to lend a helping hand during these difficult times.”

“COVID-19 has changed my life in a couple of ways, but, what I can say is that it has given me an appreciation for the small things in life, and to never take anything for granted; and I feel grateful because of it,” Pozzi says. “It’s amazing to see communities coming together, supporting one another. We will move past this as stronger, more conscientious, and understanding people.”