Having completed Spanish for Health Care Professionals last quarter, nursing student Ralph Edward Valdez from American Canyon is putting it to good use! Last week he reached out to share his recent experience.
“I applied for the Medical Reserve Corps since my nursing class doesn’t have clinicals this quarter and was assigned to work as a Nurse at a COVID testing site (they provided appropriate training to all students from the MRC) in Napa. And started work a couple of weeks ago. This past Saturday, none of the staff could speak Spanish, so upon arrival, I immediately told them I would handle all translations. I was able to successfully explain the process to the Spanish speaking patients! More importantly, I was able to keep in particular, one of the patients, from panicking and feeling overwhelmed with their situation. Up until now, I hadn’t really fully understood the importance of being multilingual, especially in a setting such as this.”
We wanted to learn more about Ralph’s experiences at PUC and volunteering and he was kind enough to chat with us!
First of all, you’re a nursing major so I assume you want to be a nurse! Have you always wanted to be one?
Once upon a time, I wanted to go to med school to be a pediatric oncologist. It wasn’t until the end of my senior year in high school that my senior project mentor told me about one of her own son’s battle with cancer. She said that undoubtedly, despite the negativity of the situation, the nurses never ceased to be beacons of hope for not just her son, but their whole family. She said it was the nurses who were at her son’s side every day that kept them with a positive outlook.
What has been your favorite class you’ve taken at PUC so far?
I’ll preface with that I haven’t had many classes at PUC, what with being a transfer student, and all that. My favorite class would be a toss-up between Spanish for SPAN 105 with Profe (Doctora) Gregorutti and BIOL 102 with Dr. Vance. I had them during different quarters.
You volunteer at a COVID testing site in Napa, what made you decide to do that?
Truthfully, I did not expect to be working on the frontlines. I happened to be watching the local news when the reporters were talking about the opportunity to work with the Health Corps in California. I immediately expressed my interest and fill out the necessary forms. I thought I would get called into work at a local hospital or a clinic working with ‘non-COVID’ patients, doing simple tasks like taking general vitals and working with RNs and CNAs. The next thing I knew, I was offered an assignment to work at the then soon-to-open drive-thru COVID-19 testing site. It definitely took me by surprise, but I took the offer. Of course, I was a little bit apprehensive at first, but during our first meeting, it was great to see all of us on the medical staff establishing the process for testing, crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s.
Can you describe your typical work shift?
My typical shift begins with me signing in and checking/logging my temperature. Then myself and the rest of the “swabbing” team washes our hands and get donned in full PPE. We then head on to the designated “hot zone,” prep our station for swabbing, and begin. We work in two-person teams with one person performing the swab and the other prepping and safely packaging the samples. Most of the time I’m the one assisting, but I occasionally perform swabs myself. The testing site tests on average, about 350-400 people a day, with my shift typically completing 200+ of the tests. Afterward, we clean up our station, gather the tests, and head over to the decontamination zone where we take a mini chemical bath, doff our PPE, and wash our hands again before checking/logging our temperatures and signing out.
What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned during your time there?
The most valuable thing I learned was how, especially in our community, the importance of being bilingual. It’s one thing to ease people’s potential fears with illnesses, but it really put things into perspective for me when I encountered my first patient who could only speak Spanish. They were evidently fearful, having not heard much from the news. Everything they’d heard was pretty much secondhand from people who could translate for them, but none of the medical professionals. I worked with the RN to explain the whole situation to them, all the way to how to interpret their results, what to expect, and more, making sure to note how their culture would be impacted by COVID-19. Once I explained everything, of course, there was a little apprehension, but overall they were happy they could finally understand what was actually going on around them, and what to do/how to interpret their test results.
You said you just completed Spanish for Health Care Professionals, was that required for your degree or did you decide to take it for another reason?
SPAN 105 is not required for my degree, but I thank professor Lorie Johns for making it known to me that it was an option. I took Spanish classes in elementary and high school, so I was versed in textbook phrases and whatnot, but not with regards to health care. Given that a big part of the demographic in Napa is Spanish-speaking, I figured that it would be best that I learn healthcare-related lingo.
Being bilingual clearly came in handy during the past few months at the testing site. Can you tell us about that experience?
I kind of explained it above already. I’ll add, however, that I’m the only Spanish speaker available to work on Saturdays. I can only imagine what it would be like to go and have an invasive test done, all the while with no one being able to explain the process to me. It’d definitely be a scary experience
What advice would you like to give other students?
Broaden your horizons! Understand that, especially in the healthcare field, it’s not just about the Golden Rule (Treat others the way you want to be treated). There’s also the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” This is a big difference between cultural competence and cultural humility. This doesn’t just apply to healthcare as well. Live it in your day to lives. Be mindful of others.
Ok, now a couple fun questions.
Tell us your favorite movie, book, song.
Favorite movie(s) since it depends on the genre
- Call Me By Your Name (the film adaptation of Andre Aciman’s book)
- Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice in English): A Japanese anime film that discusses the difficult topics of depression, bullying, suicide, and love.
What are you binge-watching right now?
As an avid fan of anime, I usually am binge-watching most shows that are being simulcasted each season.
The first place you’d like to eat out at once it’s safe to do so?
Anywhere I can get Korean BBQ! Right before the pandemic, I was actually planning to go with some friends of mine.