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PAs Navigating COVID-19: Shelbey Richey

Friday, April 24, 2020   (0 Comments)
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Shelbey Richey
AAPA student member since 2019

"As a first-year student in a Pathologists’ Assistant program, along with many others across the country, COVID-19 has drastically changed my educational experience.  Instead of getting hands-on experience touching organs and observing various disease states of tissues in the gross room or morgue with a professional, we now rely on self-study materials such as WebPath and Aperio to observe specimens and look at histology slides.  These resources are used in addition to our didactic courses that have been coordinated with the lecturing pathologists and residents.  Our lectures are now given 'live', but online through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

Prior to mid-March, my classes would meet in person four times a week, Tuesday through Friday.  The most intensive course we are currently taking is Systemic Pathology.  For this class, we would meet Wednesday for a two-hour lecture, and Friday for a two-hour lecture followed by a one-hour lab where we would get to review patient specimens exhibiting the pathologies we discussed during lecture that week.  The most difficult change to deal with is the loss of our hands-on practice with the actual patient tissues.  A classmate of mine, Jessie, also wrote about the changes to our program, and she is absolutely right in saying we cannot wait for things to get back to normal so we can work with actual specimens again!

Like many PAs, I was first certified as an MLS before starting graduate school.  During my program, I decided to continue working in the Microbiology department at the same university hospital where most of the lectures for PA school were held prior to going online.  The laboratory went through several changes at the start of the outbreak, especially regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) use and conservation.  In the beginning, we were performing respiratory virus panel testing on patients under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 using a mask, yellow paper gown, gloves, and biosafety cabinet (BSC); within weeks of changing to the extensive PPE requirements, the laboratory went back to general PPE use, only gloves, gown, and BSC.  Now we have new regulations in place that make wearing a mask mandatory if you are on hospital grounds, and our yellow gowns for molecular testing have been redistributed to the 'front lines' like the ER and units with positive COVID patients.  To compensate, we ordered two more cloth lab coats for each employee and designated a single mask to be kept and reused for each shift.  I currently work every other weekend, which means each time I come in I must learn a new procedure for specimen handling and analysis for COVID.  Basically, over the past several months since the start of the pandemic, my laboratory makes changes and updates to the procedure for handling and performing testing on COVID-19 specimens on a daily basis.

It’s incredible to read everyone’s experiences and find the similarities and differences in how the situation is being handled.  Thank you so much for sharing, and as always, stay safe, stay healthy, and keep washing your hands!"

We want to hear from you!  During this time of isolation, now more than ever we need to see and hear from our PA community!  How is COVID-19 affecting your work?  What tips and tricks have you found useful?  How are you using this time to promote pathologists' assistants?  Send us a summary describing your "new normal", along with one or two high-resolution photos, and your story may be featured next (read previous features here).  Or, if you have any COVID-19 resources to add to our list, please pass them along.  Remember, we are all in this together, and the AAPA will be here to support you throughout this crisis and beyond.


Would you like to be featured in ASCP BOC’s new campaign?  As a tie in with Lab Week, the ASCP BOC is seeking to honor the heroic efforts of laboratory professionals from around the world who are engaged in the fight against COVID-19.  They are asking for pictures, stories, and/or videos that can be shared on their social media channels throughout this crisis.  Click here to learn more; submit your story to joseph.baker@ascp.org.

Submission guidelines: There are no strict submission guidelines or criteria (submissions can be about anything people are doing to combat COVID-19).  But some examples of what you could send are: how laboratory workers are keeping themselves safe, how they are encouraging good hygiene and hand washing, how they are using humor to relieve stress, how they are raising awareness of the medical laboratory profession in the midst of this pandemic, etc.

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