Patient support associate works Albany Med’s infectious disease floor

Hospital support staffers in thick of COVID-19 battle, too
Jestina Sinneh, a patient support associate, is shown on the Albany Med infectious disease floor.
Jestina Sinneh, a patient support associate, is shown on the Albany Med infectious disease floor.

ALBANY — The job of a patient support associate has always kept Jestina Sinneh busy.

She’s worked as a PSA at Albany Medical Center for the past 15 years on the infectious disease floor, and the engaging nature of the job is what first attracted her to the position.

In any given shift, she might be bringing food to patients, taking their orders, helping nurses, getting a doctor’s personal protective equipment ready, cleaning out rooms or helping patients leave the hospital once they’ve been discharged.

Lately, her role has kept her busier than ever. Although her contact with COVID-19 patients is limited, she still has to prepare for their care, ensure that they’re fed, and assist nurses and doctors on the floor whenever they need it.


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The Albany resident took a break during one of her recent shifts to speak with The Gazette about her role and how it’s changed since COVID-19.

Q: What drew you to the medical field?

A: I came to the medical field because I wanted to know more about [medicine]. I like doing this. I like to be busy all the time. I like helping people. I really love it.

Q: What does being a patient support associate usually involve?

A: It involves a lot of things like cleaning the room, getting the patient food, taking the patient down, sometimes helping the nurses. Just helping with stuff all the time. We’re with the patients helping them all the time. anytime they need us. Most of the time we are in the room with the patient.

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Q: How has your day-to-day schedule changed since COVID?

A: In the first week, it was hard, to be honest. But now it’s getting better a little bit.

Q: What was challenging about it at first?

A: At first, sometimes a patient would come and they’d say “Oh, the patient is negative.” Then later, they would say “Oh, it’s positive.”

But now everybody coming in is positive, so it’s OK now because we know. It’s not like before.

Q: Do you have to do anything extra to protect yourself?

A: Yes. Most of the time we wash our hands, sanitize, change our gloves, change our PPE all the time. You have to do that now. All the time you wash your hands entering and [leaving]. It’s extra and it’s a lot of work.

Q: Do you also have to do a lot more cleaning or disinfecting in the patient rooms?

A: Yeah, because when a patient leaves we have to clean everything in the room. All the rooms we have to clean extra. Now they have the computers in the room; everything stays in the room. So [there’s] a lot [of] stuff in the room to clean. It’s more work than before.

Q: Would you say since COVID, the floor that you work on is busier?

A: It’s busier than before because all the time we have to take [out the] trash, we have to change the linens, we have to get gowns ready for the doctors or for the nurses, we have to get all those [things] ready for those people. It’s like every morning, every day. It’s more work than ever before.

Q: Have there been any challenging or painful days?

A: Some days it is, especially when the patients are coming in because when we’re doing the menus, the menus that go in the room don’t come out, so we have to call in through the phone. So some of the patients when they come, they don’t talk so you have to call and call. Some days it’s really difficult.

Q: Is that because they’re too sick to talk?

A: Yeah, and most of the time when they are talking they’re coughing like they can’t breathe. So it’s really difficult. Sometimes they’re [saying “Can you] call me back?” So we just say “OK. Just feel better.” [We] just give them courage.

Q: At first, when COVID-19 started spreading, were you nervous to work where you do?

A: I’ve been at Albany Med for the past 15 years and whatever comes, it comes into that infectious floor. No, [I was] never nervous to come to work. Even when they brought the first patient, I had contact with that patient. I was right there when they took the patient in.

The only time I get scared is when I watch the news. But coming on the floor is different than the news. I see them every day and I talk to them every day, so it’s different.

Q: Have you had any rewarding moments where you get to see patients get better from day to day?

A: Yes, a lot of the time. Sometimes we even take them down [to be discharged]. They’re talking, they’re doing better. Most of the patients [that] I take down, they’re doing good. When they’re discharged, we take them down and they’re doing wonderful. We talk to them. They tell me about their life. So I was scared before and now I’m not really scared.

Q: How many COVID-19 patients have you assisted?

A: We have 25 on the floor, so maybe I’ll take like three or four COVID patients down because we don’t go in the room. … So it’s like two or three, taking them down after they discharge.

Sometimes they drove all by themselves so we have to take them [to their car]. So maybe two or three a day discharge, it depends [on] how busy it is.

Some days it’s calm, some days it’s really busy. Like Mondays and Fridays, it’s just busy because that’s the time new patients come in.

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Q: Is there anything you want people to understand about the virus?

A: What I’m saying is that this virus is serious, to be honest. If you take the precautions that they ask you to do, it would be better.

Washing your hands, [wearing] the proper PPE; that’s the only thing to do.

I’ve been in contact with patients who are really sick and [felt] nothing yet, so I think I’m [taking] the proper precautions.

Categories: News, Rising to the Challenge, Special Sections

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