Double Duty: UMD Student and Hospital Worker

Apr 2, 2020

In the center of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospital staff rush around Angelique Bernik’s desk. She works as a part-time surgical control desk coordinator for an area hospital and the atmosphere, while always serious, has a new urgency. She schedules surgeries and coordinates with surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, surgical techs, and other hospital workers. “My desk is in the heart of the operating room,” she says.

All of Angelique’s days are full. In addition to taking all of her UMD Spring classes online, she works her hospital shifts. 

At work, there is a constant stream of medical professionals around her, so she’s hyper-aware of the activity and the seriousness of the situation. “Oh boy. It’s crazy,” Angelique says.

Angelique on her computer
Angelique waits for her on-line study group to begin.
Now, only rarely are visitors allowed. The staff are consistently monitoring their own body temperatures for evidence they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. They sign in twice a day to report the condition of their health.

“In general, we are doing everything we can to follow CDC guidelines and hospital policies,” Angelique says, “As always, we have our patient’s best interest in mind.”

It is a new world for her, filled with more handwashing and more hand sanitizer than ever. Staying away from the virus is so important the hospital has instituted “hand washing audits.” Staff document that each person entering the operating room (OR) suites has thoroughly washed their hands. She also says that all of the staff members follow new protocol. “We were all fit-tested for respiratory masks,” she says. “Showers and a set of new scrubs are always available to OR staff.”

Now the staff are poised, ready for whatever the pandemic may bring to Duluth.

The Transition to Online

Angelique, a triple major, studying biology, linguistics, and cognitive science, was enjoying her spring break in Las Vegas with her best friend when she got an email from the University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel. It stated that all classes would be moving online for the rest of the semester.

“When we found out school was going to be full-time online, we were worried,” Angelique says, “I was especially worried because I’m taking several classes that should strictly be in-person.”

It turned out that moving her classes to an online format wasn’t a difficult transition for Angelique. She previously attended high school in an online environment, so she says that she is accustomed to learning this way. However, Angelique is facing new obstacles with distance learning.

She takes several classes involving labs and research. While she says that most of her professors have been very understanding, she is now facing a much heavier workload due to additional assignments being added to her courses in an effort to make up for the loss of on-campus learning. 

One way that Angelique and her Organic Chemistry II classmates are overcoming working alone is by meeting every other day on Zoom for an online study group.  

Angelique works at the hospital three days a week and every other weekend. To stay on track, she schedules her online work and studies, meals, classes, and she leaves time for relaxing.  

Staying Connected

Although her family is in Mankato, Minnesota, Angelique is currently staying at her home in Duluth, along with her two cats. Her decision came as a result of her lease, her work at the hospital, and the fact that her father is currently recovering from cancer. Travel of any kind is not recommended because of the risk of catching the virus. “I wouldn’t want to spread COVID-19 to him,” Angelique says. 

Angelique is following CDC guidelines and staying home unless it is necessary to leave. This means keeping herself and her community safe, but it also means not seeing her friends or classmates in person. “Without them nearby, my motivation to do homework has decreased, but I’m working to overcome that,” Angelique says. She also texts with her father and sister daily and often has Zoom meetings with her friends and sorority sisters.

Angelique is doing her best to remain positive during these trying times. “Humanity has always bounced back,” Angelique says, “If history repeats itself, then I think there is hope.”

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This story was written by University Marketing and Public Relations communication assistant Izabel Johnson who is majoring in journalism and minoring in communication.