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Local medical workers talk about dealing with the pandemic

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MERIDEN —  Angel Rentas, a nurse practitioner specializing in cardiovascular medicine at Hartford Healthcare, said that when the pandemic began being a healthcare worker was nerve-racking.

Rentas, along with others in the medical field, was concerned about getting infected so they had to wear a lot of personal protective equipment and be more careful with patients.

“It was very tough,” the Meriden resident said. “It was a stressful time.”

Hartford Healthcare is the parent company of MidState Medical Center, where Rentas occasionally works. 

For Rentas, the main concern was bringing the virus home. On two occasions he thought he had the virus so he isolated himself from his family. Fortunately, his COVID-19 tests were negative, he said.

Despite the risk and difficulties, Rentas never considered leaving the medical field. He added that working conditions have improved as people have been vaccinated.

“I think as a human being there’s always that fear,” he said. “And I think that’s okay because that fear keeps you alert.”

A student’s experience

About a month ago, Jamira Mercado completed a phlebotomy course at Middlesex Community College.

The pandemic impacted the course as students weren’t able to practice at the hospital like they normally would. Instead, they had to practice with students in the same class, she said.

Mercado, who lives in Middletown, has not yet started working as a phlebotomist and currently works with individuals with disabilities.

She said that from a young age, she wanted work in the medical field. With the pandemic, she realized hospitals have been short staffed, which is one of the reasons she made the decision to take the course. In addition, seeing that so many people were sick with COVID-19 inspired Mercado to help, she said.

Hartford Healthcare’sapproach

Karen Fasano, vice president of patient care services for Hartford Healthcare’s central region, agreed that the pandemic has brought continued stress to frontline workers. 

“It has allowed individuals to reevaluate not only their work environment but their whole life,” Fasano said.

There has always been career-based turnover at hospitals, but the turnover Fasano is seeing now is individuals evaluating their personal and work life. Many are leaving for jobs in doctors’ offices, surgery centers and home care agencies.

Roxanne Albi, director of nursing, education and professional development for Hartford Healthcare’s central region, said the organization has been able to innovate through the pandemic. That includes looking at nursing from a different perspective. She said that having nurses experience the pandemic, and enhance their practice from the lessons learned will change the future of nursing.

Hartford Healthcare partners with colleges to recruit nurses and other medical workers. The organization meets with students, allows them to complete clinical training at HHC facilities and provides job opportunities when they graduate. 

Because of pandemic-related turnover, certified nurse aides and nurses are needed at Hartford Healthcare, she said.

ksantos@record-journal.com203-317-2364Twitter: @KarlaSantosNews


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