Working in Urgent Care, a PA Student Fights the Coronavirus

A Day in the Life: Touro School of Health Sciences Student Yehuda Schwab Details His Demanding Role Assisting Patients During This Crisis

April 22, 2020
(l-r) Dr. Van Amorengen, Medical Director of Urgent-MD, with Yehuda Schwab, a School of Health Sciences physician assistant student helping patients with COVID-19.

You may think you know, but you have no idea. Here’s what it looks to be inside an urgent care facility during this global pandemic from the viewpoint of Physician Assistant (PA) student, Yehuda Schwab.

You work at an urgent care facility heavily affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. What is your role and how has it changed in the last couple of months? 

Before enrolling in Touro’s School of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Bay Shore program, I worked at Urgent-MD in Cedarhurst, New York, for two years. Once the COVID-19 crisis hit, school transitioned to a virtual learning environment and I was pulled from my rotation in the surgical division at Mercy Hospital. Shortly after, the medical director of Urgent-MD reached out to me requesting my assistance. After thinking hard about the opportunity I was being given to help people, although it potentially involved risking my family’s health, I decided to begin working at the facility once again while my rotation remained on hold indefinitely.

Since the office is so short-staffed now, with staff members getting sick and patient caseloads rising dramatically, I’m juggling many responsibilities as both a Medical Scribe and a Medical Assistant. Seeing an estimated 60 to 70 patients a day with only about two providers on hand, I’m on my feet and moving quickly from the second I start my day until the moment it ends. I am tasked with really anything that needs to be done, including writing down a patient’s basic history, sending prescriptions to pharmacies, writing up findings from the visits as well as outlining next steps so our doctors can go on to treat the next patient. I’m also drawing blood and administering vaccines. It’s very important that I keep up with the ever-growing needs of our patients so that they’re all seen in a timely manner.

Why are you passionate about pursuing a career in medicine?

Being a physician assistant (PA) is the perfect job for me. After being an EMT for six years, I had no doubt that I love treating and interacting with patients, learning new things in this vast field every day, and being there for other people during their greatest time of need. Now more than ever, I feel obligated to do my part in helping the communities deeply affected by this global pandemic as I have the skills and knowledge needed to treat patients.

What are some lessons you're learning while helping patients during this time?

I think that for a long time, medical professionals were blamed when things went wrong unexpectedly and were forced to pick up the slack for others, rather than being appreciated for risking their lives to help patients. However, I’m now seeing firsthand that this pandemic has changed that mentality and medical professionals are seeing that people really do care about what they’re doing on a high level. As I continue to read a ton of medical information in my down time, I’m realizing how critical it is to listen to rules like social distancing as it’s the only way to flatten the curve. While my own community in the Rockaways has been hit hard by this crisis, we’re taking these mandates very seriously and are now seeing a decrease in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Another key lesson I’m learning is how important vaccines are and that it’s vital to vaccinate your children. While I’m hoping a coronavirus vaccine is released, I know this will take some time.

Are there any challenges you're currently experiencing and how are you overcoming them?

Working 12-hour days and a lack of sleep are both major obstacles I’m now dealing with and I’m very thankful for coffee. Finding the right balance between working long hours and spending quality time with my family has also been hard, yet I do my best to be fully in the moment whenever I’m home. I’m constantly in fear of being exposed to COVID-19 and unintentionally bringing it home to my family as well. While I’m taking all of the normal precautions like constantly washing my hands and wearing a mask and gloves, I’m taking other steps as well to prevent the possible spread of the virus. I change out of my scrubs before I go home, remove my shoes prior to entering my house, and shower before I interact with my loved ones. We’re also seeing the rising need for access to testing kits, which is a challenge, as it forces providers to make tough decisions regarding who gets tested based on CDC guidelines such as symptoms, exposure history and age.

What is some advice you'd give to other PA students who are helping patients during this crisis?

The current situation is scary and affecting everyone, yet we all need to work together and constantly remind ourselves that we’re doing the right thing by helping others. Stay strong, maintain a positive mindset, and most importantly, try to live in the moment while taking all risk factors into consideration instead of focusing on the unknown.

What vital skills did you learn in the Touro classroom that you're now utilizing on a daily basis?

My answer to this question can be expressed in one word—everything. From taking a proper patient history to picking up on small details that might indicate worsening of symptoms or further complications that may arise, to stabilizing fractured bones, assisting with suture placement or helping people who are facing illnesses outside the scope of the coronavirus, there are truly no skills that I’ve learned at Touro that I’m not using daily. I appreciate all these lessons so much and can tell that my education really did prepare me for the current challenging environment I’m navigating.