Nursing student on front line of pandemic as EMT and CNA
On a rainy Friday afternoon, Nicole Penley (Nursing, ’20), was preparing for her weekend shift as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford.
It would be her first shift since the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the country. But, it would not be her first time in a hospital with infected patients.
Penley also works as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Cape Elizabeth Fire Department.
“It is almost scarier, because in a hospital you know which patients have the virus,” she explained. “As an EMT, you don’t know that when responding to a call. I have been exposed to two people who later tested positive. Thankfully, I had the proper equipment on and I haven’t had any symptoms.”
Penley has been an EMT since she was a junior in high school after enrolling in a junior rescue program. She also works as a firefighter with the department, all while finishing up her education at UNE. After completing her final four classes online, she will head into the nursing profession at a very uncertain time.
“I am a little nervous because I have asthma,” she said. “But we take an oath to put other people before ourselves. We can take every precaution to prepare ourselves, but it is still okay to feel a little scared. I feel like I have a purpose in this world to treat people who are sick, regardless of the threat to myself.”
Penley says she has had no second thoughts about going into nursing.
“Honestly, not at all,” she stated. “I'm oddly intrigued by it because I want to make a difference. If something ever happens to me, I can say that I was doing what I love to do and I was trying to make a difference.”
She is grateful for her time at UNE and the way she was prepared for what she expects will be a very rewarding career.
“It has been tough and rigorous, but I have to say that with all the simulation experiences, in-depth courses, and the credentials of the professors and how much they want to be there to teach, I could not have asked to be more prepared,” she explained.
While she admits it is scary going into her new career during a pandemic, she understands that hospitals and health care facilities need her and her fellow classmates more than ever.
“This is a chance for us to prove to ourselves and to others that we're here to help,” she said.