As he helps patients stricken with COVID-19 while working part-time as an Emergency Department Technician at NYU Winthrop Hospital, in Mineola, NY, St. John’s student Nicholas Baumann foresees a critical fork in the road for health-care workers toiling on the front lines of the crisis.
"Those wishing to pursue careers in health care will either be discouraged from continuing out of fear a pandemic will happen again, or they will be fueled by this crisis to get to the front lines as fast as they can to help out those around them,” said Nicholas, who recently completed his first year as a graduate student in the Physician Assistant program at St. John’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “Seeing something like this happen only reinforces why I want to be a physician assistant. My goal in life is to help people in any way, shape, or form, to the best of my ability. It is the career I was born to pursue.”
Nicholas, a resident of Glen Cove, NY, said he often directly interacts with COVID-19 patients, whether he is assigned to tend to the general population inside the hospital’s emergency room or within units set up to exclusively treat patients with the virus.
“I am often the first point of contact for coronavirus patients when they need to communicate a concern that they have or if they begin to present with any new symptoms or their vital signs change,” Nicholas explained. Donning personal protective equipment (PPE)—including a hospital gown, face mask, face shield, and gloves—is now a routine part of his work shift. “In times like these, protecting ourselves is just as important as protecting our patients. If we are not properly protected, then we risk contracting the virus and spreading it to our loved ones when we leave the hospital,” explained Nicholas.
Even though he and his colleagues are confronted with the grim realities of COVID-19, Nicholas said he also witnesses inspiring moments of kindness and generosity extended to NYU Winthrop’s health-care staff by the surrounding community.
“Almost every day, a local restaurant, an employee’s family, or just someone performing a random act of kindness donates food for the hospital staff. We sometimes get people who donate homemade face masks or other gift bags that our staff loves,” Nicholas said. “We know that our communities stand with us and are rooting for our success—because our success means that they can hopefully sleep easier at night.”
Nicholas enjoys the same generous support from the faculty at the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
“Our professors are amazing,” he said. “They want to see us succeed, and they don’t want this virus to impede the development of our professional abilities. We have a rigorous course load in the Physician Assistant program that seems daunting, at times, but with the help of the professors, that load is manageable.”
Nicholas chose St. John’s for his graduate studies, in part, because of its name recognition. “When I tell people I attend St. John’s, they know exactly which school I am talking about,” he explained.
However, when he learned about the University’s Vincentian mission of helping those most in need, he knew he found the perfect place to pursue his graduate work in a meaningful way.
“What keeps me going is my drive to provide medical care for those most in need,” Nicholas said. “St. John’s, through its mission, helped me find the model that I want to follow all of my life.”
“Choosing St. John’s was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” he added, “and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”