It’s definitely been hard and anxiety-provoking, because I’ve been putting myself at risk every day for my patients. But I’m extremely grateful I can do my part and lend a hand to helping the people in need at this time.
Marissa Arseneau ’17 graduated from Fitchburg State with a degree in exercise and sports science and soon set her sights on a career as a physician assistant (PA). “I think it’s one of the most incredible fields in medicine,” she said. “I wanted to be a PA because they are great liaisons between the physician and the nurse or the clinical staff. Wherever we’re needed, we’re able to step up and provide.”
Arseneau had a job offer at a New Hampshire urgent care facility even before she finished her PA program last December. By her third week at work this spring, the COVID-19 pandemic had struck. “In March our clinic had new guidelines for COVID-19, and any patient with upper respiratory symptoms was not allowed inside the clinic and we were seeing them in the parking lot,” Arseneau said. “I was swabbing multiple COVID patients a day. It was definitely overwhelming for every member of the clinical staff. As an urgent care, we’re trying to care for patients who we can keep out of the emergency room, because the ERs are needed for more critically ill patients.”
And while her clinic had sufficient personal protective equipment like masks and respirators, Arseneau said she knows not everyone on the front line has been so fortunate. “I have friends that are working at local hospitals and family health clinics where they have to wear the same N95 masks for a week straight, because there just aren’t enough supplies,” she said.
Arseneau said she never expected to encounter such a singular public health crisis so early in her career. “It’s definitely been hard and anxiety-provoking, because I’ve been putting myself at risk every day for my patients. But I’m extremely grateful I can do my part and lend a hand to helping the people in need at this time. I would much rather be a new graduate PA than be someone who wishes they could help and they can’t. When it is over, it’s just going to make me a better provider. It’s surreal to be in part of something that is going to go down in history. I’m glad I could lend a hand in it.”
This story was first published in the Summer 2020 edition of Contact, the university's alumni magazine.