A Clinical Care Technician in the Thick of the Pandemic
Enrique Hernandez reports on a health care worker experiencing the horrors of COVID-19 from inside an urgent care unit which turned to intensive care.
For William Canter, a moniker he is going under for job security, entering the healthcare field was anything but smooth sailing. William started as an EMT in Boston in June 2020 right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After working as an EMT for a few months, William ended up transferring to the Tufts Medical Center as a Clinical Care Technician in October.
The transition from the streets to hospital sheets, he says, was the opposite of a breath of fresh air.
In December, only a few months after transferring, his Urgent Care was turned into an Intensive Care Unit.
“We couldn’t take time off we couldn’t leave the state, it was a fun time,” William says ironically. William wasn’t able to get time off to see his mother across the country for Christmas.
Normally, Clinical Care Technicians aid nurses by cleaning patients, taking vitals, feeding, as well as monitoring their intakes and outtakes, “but when we were in ICU mode sometimes we had people dying in our unit. Usually, they come out of recovery, and they’re pretty stable, and they’re there until you take them to another unit, but no. We had patients decompensating really fast and it ended being a rapid response where they were bagging the patient and helping the patient breathe… a bunch of stuff, obviously intensive care, a lot different from what it would normally be.”
Despite being on the frontlines, William feels people in his lone of work have not been given the credit they deserve.
“Sometimes there’s not respect which is annoying,” he said. Whether it’s from patients or coworkers William talks about disrespect. “Our entire day depends on how the nurse is feeling, we’re supposed to work with them we don’t owe them anything. I get it, my job title, I don’t know as much as you… they are a Registered Nurse which I’m not. I use my EMT certification which is not the same as Nursing.”
His patients, he says, aren’t any better “People are just really abusive to healthcare workers and you think ‘wow.’ Sometimes people throw hands and are really handsy, it’s just really uncomfortable,” William said.
William says he has wisdom to share now for the next generation of health care workers.
“Go into it with an open mind because what you think the field is going to be, what TV shows you is so dramatic and so not realistic. Don’t think it’s going to be a certain way because if you don’t keep an open mind somethings that you’re going to see and experience [things that] are not going to be ok and you’re not gonna know how to deal with it and its gonna hit you really hard.”
One day William says hit harder than the other days. “An old couple came in they were in their 60s. They came because their daughter was in hospice, had terminal cancer, and was gonna die. They were here from Wyoming because they were helping take care of their daughter’s kids and helping their son-in-law get it together. And they came in with Covid symptoms.”
William was the one who drew the short straw, so to speak, to see if they were themselves sick. He took them in and began listening to their story. When William got the results from the X-Ray tech, it wasn’t good. “They had pneumonia in the lungs and it doesn’t look too good, their test came back positive and the doctor had to tell them. I remember seeing their immediate reaction and them just absolutely bawling… and knowing they might never see their daughter again…” At the time visitation was already heavily restricted, but with the parents testing positive for COVID-19, there was absolutely no chance they could see their daughter now.
“Life is really fragile. I’ve realized things are really unfortunate for some people and just seeing their face like that and seeing them bawl like that, it was really hard for me to accept.” William doesn’t know what happened to the patients after that, but hopes that they were able to see their daughter again and eventually return to take care of their grandkids.
William says that working in the healthcare field has changed his perspective on the industry. “Some of the things I’ve seen it’s like ‘why do people have to see that?’ There’s no reason for someone to have to see that … And it makes you think certain things are ok when they’re not lik,e oh I’ve seen this at work like oh I’ve seen this a thousand time it makes you think ‘wow the world kind of sucks it really does.’”
COVID-19 cases are going down in Boston, as in the rest of the country. William’s unit transitioned back to Urgent care from an ICU in February.