SCRANTON, Pa. May 4, 2020 – After graduating from Lackawanna College in May, Drums native Jessica Hoffman began her career as a surgical technologist at the Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, New York. In March– just a week after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a hold on elective procedures at hospitals– she began working at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site at Ithaca Mall.
“I really didn’t get a chance to think about it. I got a text message from my boss saying that I wasn’t needed in the operating room, but had about an hour to get to the testing site to start training,” said Hoffman. “It’s a job and you do what you need to do. That’s what makes my colleagues, healthcare workers and everyone on the front lines so special. Yes, there’s fear, but the more knowledge you have can help overcome that fear.”
As a surgical technologist, Hoffman is responsible for sterilizing and prepping operating rooms and equipment and helping doctors during surgeries.
“We are taught to be masters of aseptic technique and are skilled in preventing the spread of pathogens and cross-contamination, which are all critical skills when dealing with COVID-19,” said Hoffman. “The expertise and knowledge I’ve acquired from working as a surgical technologist have been valuable for me while working at the testing site.”
The testing site is set up like an obstacle course that patients drive through with stations set up for registration, information and swabbing. According to Hoffman, the Ithaca testing site sees an average of 130-200 patients a day, sometimes double if a patient tests positive at an essential business.
Though the cases are still high, Hoffman is seeing the flattening of the curve and hopes to return to the operating room soon.
“We are slowly being allowed to do more elective procedures as those holds are starting to be lifted,” said Hoffman. “We need to be smart going forward and take the lessons that we’ve learned during this pandemic and apply them to the future.”
Hoffman says that though people call healthcare workers heroes, they are just ordinary people doing jobs that they are trained for.
“In the healthcare world, you never know what you’re going to come up against. We have a love for treating and helping people, and we’re Just applying that passion to this really crazy pandemic,” says Hoffman. “Life is full of unknowns in the operating room and that’s how it’s been out there on the front lines. You need to go back to that reserve of training that you received all the way in the beginning, take everything you’ve learned along the way and provide the best care that you can.”
Jessica Hoffman, a Lackawanna College alum and surgical technologist for the Cayuga Medical Center, is working at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site at Ithaca Mall.