Salisbury University's 2020 class of health care workers is helping to fight coronavirus on the front lines.
Two weeks ago, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan asked universities to expedite their programs in order to get their students in the field faster.
That is exactly what SU nursing and respiratory therapy programs did.
Senior Emily Blacker will have her degree in respiratory therapy come May 16, but she is already working at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
Blacker was originally expected to start her position at Hopkins in July, but she reached out to the hospital, and the staff jumped at the opportunity to have another respiratory therapist on board.
"I was absolutely jumping to help," Blacker said. "I just felt like me sitting around having this knowledge and not being able to do anything until July was a waste."
Blacker will soon begin working her 12-hour shifts under a respiratory therapist mentor.
She will be assisting patients who are on ventilators or who show respiratory problems.
The soon-to-be graduate explained that there is no time to be afraid when working in the healthcare system, especially now with a pandemic going on.
"I don't think I really had time to process the fear. Of course everyone is a little scared to go and put your life in that situation," Blacker said. "But you are doing it to help your patients; you need to put your patients before yourself. So, I was like, 'All right, let's do it.'"
Blacker explained that although she would be at risk of exposing herself and loved ones to COVID-19, she wouldn't have asked for it any other way.
"I feel very blessed, and I feel very grateful that they are letting us do this while I finish my degree," Blacker said. "I'm very happy to help and learn how this hospital works and to be able to orientate myself faster."
She is especially looking forward to gaining invaluable knowledge and experience while fighting coronavirus. She pointed out that this opportunity would allow her to examine herself in a high-intensity situation.
Blacker isn't the only SU student working on the front lines.
Senior Luke Sparr is a nursing major who will be working with the University of Maryland Medical System at COVID-19 overflow centers.
Health care professionals are in high demand since Hogan called for 6,000 more beds to treat coronavirus patients. Sparr was hired in what is called the emergency staffing pool. He will be working in the Baltimore Convention Center.
Since Sparr has not officially graduated yet, he cannot take the National Council Licensure Examination to become a registered nurse. He will not be able to perform all the regular duties, but he explained that it didn't matter.
"I'd rather try to help, even though its not as much as I would like to be doing," Sparr said. "It's still important work."
Sparr never planned on this being his first nursing opportunity. He actually has a job lined up at The Johns Hopkins Hospital for July, but he explained that helping now was personal rather than professional.
"I definitely didn't see myself doing this, but I think its important for me to play a part in this," Sparr said. "For me, as a healthcare worker, I need to be involved in the community, especially when it is suffering. I wanted to be a part of that and contribute."
By ANNIE GEITNER
Image from Fox34.com.