UAA nursing student talks about her time working in a hospital during COVID-19

Britney Saenz, a new UAA nursing student, but she’s also a medical assistant at the SouthCentral Foundation hospital. This specific hospital is a subsection of the Native Medical Center. She started working there in June 2020, right after graduating from Anchorage Career College. She started her nursing studies before  graduating high school.

Brittney Saenz is a first year at UAA, but graduated from Alaska Career College in May of 2020. Image courtesy of Brittney Saenz.

“I was seven years old when I knew I wanted to be a doctor,” Saenz said. 

She said that her passion for being a doctor stemmed from wanting to help people like her aunt who was very sick and was always in and out of the hospital. Saenz recounted that she promised her sick aunt that she would one day become a doctor. Now, she’s pursuing her dreams to be a nurse and eventually a surgeon. 

Her average work day for SCF (SouthCentral Foundation) is about 8 to 12 hours a day. This doesn’t include the hours she takes being a full time UAA nursing student. Her work consists of mainly helping patients, checking vitals and administering vaccines. She also volunteers at the Brother Francis shelter. 

Since she began nursing  at the height of the pandemic, Saenz talks about how in the beginning of her career the hospital was taking the virus very seriously requiring everyone to wear intensive PPE. Now, she says that since they know more about the virus, they are only required to wear a face mask. She has treated patients with Covid-19.

“It gave me much more perspective on how I do things through life just because of how vulnerable these patients are and how we need to take care of them. Not only physically, but also emotionally because I have been seeing that Covid does take a lot emotionally, not just physically,” Saenz said.

This past month she has been able to get her full dosage of the Pfizer vaccine. Saenz talked about how she was very nervous about getting the vaccine at first. Once she received both doses, Saenz was happy to have gotten it. The only side effects she experienced was a sore arm on the first dose, but had no symptoms on the second dose. When administering the vaccine to others, she said that they have a waiting period of about 10-15 minutes before they are released. In that time they observe any symptoms you might have to the vaccine. Saenz said that the most severe side effect she had seen was a slight fever, but nothing too extreme. 

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When asked if people should be nervous about taking the vaccine she said, “Absolutely not.”

Brittney Saenz works at the South Central Foundation, which is a subsection of the Alaska Medical Center. Image courtesy of Anchorage Daily News.

Her time at the SouthCentral Foundation has been amazing and she likes the fact that people’s needs are met and their spiritual beliefs are respected. She said that other hospitals aren’t as considerate to the patients beliefs. 

“A lot of the time other physicians outside of campus don’t take the time to cater to these needs, wearas SCF does that and more in order to make our patients feel even more comfortable,” Saenz said. 

Saenz also goes and helps people at the homeless shelter Brother Francis, which is a homeless shelter combined with Beans Café. Saenz talks about her time at the shelter as very disheartening. She says that no residents of the shelter have the proper care that they need because of the limited space and funding. With the closure of the Sullivan Arena, she says that there are a lot more people in need.

Something that Saenz wants to emphasize is to not be afraid of the vaccines and to stay safe and socially distant during this time.