From hand-painted signs in quaint front yards to highway billboards, communities all over the country have been thanking the heroic health care workers serving on the COVID-19 front lines. For two Montgomery College nursing students, their spring semesters went from classrooms and campus life to standing shoulder to shoulder with the doctors and nurses who have dedicated their lives to saving the lives of others.
The spring 2020 semester started off like every other for Osbert Omage and Samantha LeMaster. But, with the March campus closings and the switch to remote learning exclusively, Omage and LeMaster both decided to seek hands-on experiences in their chosen fields. Omage worked this spring at the Baltimore Convention Center as a COVID-19 specialist. LeMaster has become a licensed nursing assistant through the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) Clinical Extern.
“My experience at Montgomery College has helped me for this job by giving me the skills necessary to succeed,” said Omage, a general STEM/pre-nursing student. Omage credited the College’s Learning Assistant (LA) program, saying it was “a key resource” for him when treating patients. As a COVID-19 specialist, he oversees temperature checks in patients, administers nasal swabs, and seeks information about the employee/visitor/patient’s symptoms.
Omage said he gained confidence from Montgomery College faculty who encouraged him to join the frontline workers engaged in the fight against COVID-19. They include his mentor at the Achieving the Promise Academy (ATPA), Professor Jane Smith; Carolyn Schick, learning assistant program director; English Professor Christina Devlin, and Microbiology Professor Margaret Birney.
“These educators frequently guided me, and inspired me every day to fulfill my passion as a healthcare provider,” Omage said.
LeMaster, a nursing student, also wanted to help during the pandemic, which has seen more than five million Americans test positive for COVID-19, to date. When asked about her experiences in the hospital during the pandemic, she says it is difficult to sum up everything, but the whole experience has made her more aware of the importance of following the guidelines issued by public health officials.
These educators frequently guided me, and inspired me every day to fulfill my passion as a healthcare provider
“While I did not have any experience in health care before the pandemic, it’s clear to me that this pandemic has been hard on staff, patients, and loved ones,” she said.
LeMaster has seen the emotional impact of the pandemic on the families of patients staying in hospital beds for weeks on end. Specifically, the toll it takes on loved ones unable to visit due to the no-visitors policy, and the fear experienced by non-COVID-19 patients who feel at risk of contracting the disease while hospitalized.
“Some were so scared of getting us sick that they were hesitant to ask for anything or call for what they needed,” she recalled. While it has been hard, she acknowledges the nursing program at MC gave her what she needed to do the job in dangerous conditions at the heart of a global pandemic.
LeMaster says the MC nursing professors have continued to support her during the experience. Clinical instructors have stood alongside her in the hospital teaching her in person, and the nursing advisor encouraged her and helped her navigate the transition to online learning.
Both LeMaster and Omage had the same request to all readers: “Follow the guidelines, wear a mask, and stay safe!”