Alumna Working on Front Lines of COVID-19 Crisis
A physician assistant in orthopedic surgery, Diana Esposito ’18P never imagined she would be on the front lines of a worldwide pandemic. Barely two years after graduation, she was pressed into service, along with several other St. John’s alumni, to work in the emergency department of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital during the COVID-19 crisis.
“As the numbers surged, we were deployed to the medicine floor of the hospital.” (Medicine floors are composed of patients whose admitting diagnoses are treated without surgical intervention.) “It is out of our comfort zone, but we try to help as best we can,” Ms. Esposito explained. “Now we are a fully functional medicine team. It has been very challenging working with critical patients in an area that we do not specialize in.”
Working longer hours and weekends has become the norm for Ms. Esposito. A typical day begins at 7 a.m. when she relieves the night team, receiving patient updates and instructions. Then she is deployed to the medicine floor.
“Our hospital tries to protect the physician assistants by only having nurses and attending physicians deal directly with the patients. However, it is really not feasible. I see patients all day.”
She has the greatest respect for the nurses she encounters. “They are really the greatest patient advocates,” she stressed.
After addressing any immediate problems, Ms. Esposito will go to her office to examine notes and lab results. “The most important thing we have to check is the oxygen saturation for the patients. These patients are very critical, and their oxygen levels can decrease very quickly.” Since the crisis began, Ms. Esposito noted she hears calls for rapid response teams every five to 10 minutes.
She also checks in with attending physicians who address any concerns she brings to their attention. Then the process repeats itself the next day.
A Physician Assistant major at St. John’s, Ms. Esposito enrolled at the University because they offered a Bachelor of Science degree in her area of interest. “It was a quicker route to get out in the field,” she explained. At St. John’s, she was heavily involved in extracurricular and service activities, including Project Sunshine, a program allowing college students to engage creatively with pediatric patients and their families in a hospital setting.
Ms. Esposito also served as Secretary of the Physician Assistant Association, as an orientation leader, and as a peer leader for the Discover New York program. She also participated in many service activities through her sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha.
Ms. Esposito works alongside eight St. John’s alumni who were hired around the same time; several are her former classmates. “I think my team really does a great job, making themselves available and trying to fill in the areas where the hospital really needs the help.”