Front line workers

Health Care Heroes

Past and present University of Bridgeport students are on the front lines fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the nation. In fact, many students who major in the Health Sciences already serve as essential workers, including as health care staff in hospitals and nursing homes.

Leanne Lubas works part-time as a CNA at Bridgeport Hospital in the only COVID-19 unit. “Our unit is very busy,” she says. “We do pretty much everything with the exception of giving meds.” She reminds herself when it gets hard that she is doing it to care for others and looks to her mother, a Med Lab Tech, as an inspiration. “I treat people how I would like to be treated,” she says. “I would want to have someone caring for me with a smile and positivity.”

Samantha Larkin works down the road at St. Vincent’s Hospital, floating from the COVID ICU, to the medical COVID units, to the emergency room. Inspired by the nurses who treated her grandfather, she is working as a CNA until she gets her nursing degree.

I love nursing. I am nothing but proud that I can work on the front lines among some amazing heroes.” – Samantha Larkin

The experience has made her braver and has given her the confidence to take care of the sickest patients in the future.

Medical Laboratory Sciences student Heather Soria works as a phlebotomist at the Milford Campus of the Bridgeport Hospital. Wearing a hazmat suit and an N95 mask, she works overtime drawing blood and processing specimens. Although she already has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health, she enrolled at UB in order to work in a lab, and has applied what she learned here to her current job. When asked how she feels to know she is making a difference, she says, “It makes me feel good, humbled, and honored.” The experience of working during the pandemic has made her a “better professional,” and confirmed her motivation and commitment to health care work.

It’s not only health sciences students; Dayle Wade is a Psychology major, but is also a licensed practical nurse. In addition to her work at a family practice office, she helps with COVID testing at a community health center. “I am proud to serve the City of Bridgeport,” she says.

Many former students also serve on the front lines. Linda Elizabeth Leach graduated from the Medical Laboratory Sciences program in 2016 and works as a medical technologist in a pediatric hospital in Philadelphia. Her front-line job is at the Infectious Disease Diagnostics Laboratory, testing thousands of patients and employees for COVID-19. “I am proud to be a part of an organization that offers two different testing platforms for COVID-19 testing,” she says, “And lucky to be able to help out in performing the testing that is essential to the well-being of the patient.”

Rachel DiCarlo graduated from the Health Sciences program in 2017 and now works as an occupational therapist in a skilled nursing facility. She helps rehabilitate COVID-19 patients and helped them improve their endurance and health during their recovery. “I help to create a treatment plan tailored to each patient’s needs,” she says. “The virus affects everyone differently. Some of the patients are very weak…it usually takes them a month or more to fully recover.”

Nursing homes have been hit hard by the pandemic. For two years, Jordan List has been working as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Jewish Senior Services in Bridgeport. She works in a skilled nursing facility where she helps advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients complete their daily tasks. Due to the quarantine, some of her patients passed away this year without a last opportunity to see their loved ones. “It’s a tough job,” she says.

But just like all these UB health care workers, the experience of working in health care during a pandemic has only strengthened List’s belief that she has embarked on the right profession. “I made the right decision to go to nursing school,” she says. “I can serve the community.” As that community faces the worst pandemic in a century, University of Bridgeport students and graduates will continue to serve it well, saving lives at the risk of their own.