*DC Alliance Guest Blog Post*
By Nicole Hanrahan, Executive Director and Andrea Elganzoury, LAYC Career Academy
Giselle Lemus always knew she wanted to work in the medical field. As a child, she remembers, her mother was often sick, and Lemus did what she could to help. Then, when Lemus was 14, her mother underwent major surgery, and Lemus stepped up her home care. She made sure her mother took her medications, changed her dressings, and took her vitals. Lemus remembers thinking,“This is actually fun. I like doing this!”
In 2019, Lemus graduated from LAYC Career Academy’s Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Program and began working at a community-based healthcare provider in the District. She had no idea she would become one of the heroes working on the frontlines of COVID-19.
In early March 2020, the clinic was not seeing patients with symptoms of COVID-19. But as the virus spread, the clinic changed their strategy to meet the community’s new needs. The ongoing question, says Lemus, was “how to make sure we are safe and also [make] sure the patients are safe.”
The solution was a stringent ‘COVID-19 plan,’ enabling the clinic to see both well and sick patients on a rotation. “For example, this week I’m only doing ‘wells,’” Lemus says, “and then next week I’ll be working Monday to Saturday with people who only [have] COVID symptoms.” Staff also started sitting separately, wearing gloves, N95 masks, and face shields, as well as constantly wiping down every surface. These habits, says Lemus, have become the ‘new normal’ in the clinic.
Lemus was adjusting to that new normal when her partner tested positive for COVID-19. For two weeks, Lemus worked from home, quarantined with her partner, and their daughter. But, as someone with asthma, Lemus worried about her own health, and the health of her daughter. She worried whether her partner would recover. “Those days were terrifying,” she says.
In the end, her partner did make a full recovery, and after Lemus tested negative for the virus, she was cleared to return to work at the clinic.
Lemus says she often hears people in her field talk about how they ‘did not sign up for this [pandemic],’ but remarks, “I personally feel like I did sign up for this. It’s the medical field.” Although she recognizes the virus presents a challenging situation–and she’s had her fair of challenges–she says, “I’m helping the world get better. This is huge.”
For more information about LAYC Career Academy and their Medical Assistant Pathway Program, visit https://laycca.org/.