It’s been this way at the UNLV Medicine offices ever since UNLV Medicine President/CEO Dr. Michael Gardner and his team partnered with Clinical Pathology Labs (CPL) to provide what is now nearly 2500 tests. Gardner, well aware that other curbside testing programs tried around the country turned chaotic when hundreds of people showed up at the same time for testing, decided it would be best to do testing by appointment.
There has been no problem getting volunteers to take calls. Christie Putnam, the UNLV Medicine Procurement & Materials Management Director, who Gardner says has been invaluable in “making things happen for the curbside testing program,” says students work into the night returning calls. They include: Sarah Grimley, Ashley Prandecki, Maneesha Sakhuja, Horacio Guerra, Hadley Johnson, Damien Medrano, Erin Walsh, Shilpa Daulat, Monica Arebalos, William Fang, Kathie Velez, Kelsey Kincaid, Faun Botor, Greg Schreck, Michael Briones, Sabrina Novenschi, Marwa Maki, Cory Colombini, Lauren Hollifield, Ginger Christian, William Gravley, Doris Chan, Emily Guyaux, Lennon Zimmerman.
“I think I’m like most of the students,” says Hadley Johnson, who plans to become a psychiatrist. “I just wanted to contribute in some way to help people in this pandemic...I think this experience will undoubtedly influence the way I engage patients in the future...I’m trying to stay as upbeat, as positive as possible with the people I talk with, letting them know that the vast majority of people come out of this OK.”
Charter class student Sarah Grimley, who’s often worked the phones for 12 hours a day, says some of the calls for testing appointments came from people working in healthcare in Southern Nevada, including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and certified nursing assistants. She said she also heard from pilots and flight attendants, hotel and restaurant workers.
“I had quite a few patients who were crying,” Grimley says. “They were so anxious they were hyperventilating until I was able to help calm them down...Some things get blown out of proportion and people aren’t getting the accurate information they deserve. People often thank us for what we’re doing.”
Shaker, a combat medic in Afghanistan prior to entering medical school, says his experience talking to patients will better prepare him for his intended career in emergency medicine.
“A military concept that I embrace is that when things go wrong, we don’t rise to the occasion, but we fall back on our training,” Shaker says. “This pandemic will help better prepare a generation of healthcare providers and enhance our ability to respond to such large scale medical needs. This could very well be our training for something bigger in the future.”
Shaker says he will never forget a call from a mother concerned about her three children.
“She was crying uncontrollably to the degree that it was hard to understand her...One of her children had shown flu-like symptoms for a few days including some cough, sore throat and a fever...then the second...and the third as well. All of them sick and getting progressively worse.
She was home alone, without a support network...She continued to ask me, ‘Are my kids going to die?’...She had just lost her job and...implied to me that her world was crashing down.
“Yes, I found out all this information in a simple call screening for symptoms and risk factors for COVID-19. I realized that screening and testing weren’t enough for this call. A few kind words, some patient education and guidance on what to do in an emergency, and even some information about social services were all it took to give her a glimpse of hope by the end of the call. I also reassured her that there were medical resources available and that her children would be tested and could get medical attention if needed."