NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada – Most states have issued stay-at-home orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, forcing many to telework or temporarily go without work completely. However, healthcare workers don’t have this option and must continue working the front lines to help care for those in their time of need.
For Citizen Airmen, Staff Sgt. Wendy Brizuela, 706th Fighter Squadron aviation resource manager, being a civilian advanced emergency medical technician isn’t mission essential, it’s just what she does.
“My job is to help people during their emergency and at the end of the day I love my job and I love helping people,” Brizuela said.
Brizuela has been with the American Medical Response, Inc. for eight years, seven of those as an EMT.
Currently, she is also a part of an innovative crisis response team, one of the first of its kind in the country. Working hand-in-hand with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, her team is staffed with a mental health professional and responds to all mental health calls.
“It’s a nice program because we can divert patients and take them directly to the right facilities where they can get all the resources they need rather than clogging up the emergency room and delaying that care,” she said.
This month marks two-years since the program was initiated and freeing up resources such as the ER can be crucial during this time when many healthcare workers are worried about limited supplies due to COVID-19.
Initially, Brizuela didn’t have concerns about working in the medical field during the current pandemic. However, as the number of cases continues to rise in the United States, she is concerned about resources and exposure.
“I do get scared of catching it,” she said. “Not necessarily for myself, but more for my family who are considered high risk and also my patients.”
However, safeguards are in place when responding to calls involving potential exposure. In order for Brizuela and her team to arrive on the scene fully prepared, 911 calls are screened for any indications that a patient may have COVID-19.
“From there, we will take all necessary safety precautions by wearing our gloves, masks, eye protections and gowns if we need to,” she said.
Patient’s temperatures are taken and if they have any symptoms of COVID-19 they will also be provided a mask.
With the additional stress and fear surrounding COVID-19, Brizuela said there is a deep level of understanding between AMR and her medical field colleagues.
“We are all in some type of level scared,” she said. “This is something we haven’t dealt with so there is a lot of support between my company and colleagues.”
At home, Brizuela and her family have also felt the effects with school and work closures but she remains positive.
“I’ve been able to get back into playing the cello since I have a lot of time on my hand now,” she said. “I’m also able to spend more time with my family which is nice since I will be leaving sometime soon for my deployment.”
Originally set to deploy at the beginning of April 2020, she now finds herself delayed due to the new guidelines. She said the unknown date of departure has been frustrating, but she is grateful for the extra time with her four-year-old son and family before she leaves.
As she continues to support her community through her EMT work, she urges everyone to wash their hands and stay home.
“Please don’t go to the ER unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Brizuela said.
She also wants to remind everyone to be mindful of how they treat those working in the medical field who may have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to the nature of their job.
“We worry about taking it home too and we take every precaution we can to not get sick,” she said. “When we come home we need support from our families too, we have seen a lot of things lately.”
During these stressful times, Brizuela said the support from family and loved ones does not go unnoticed and is vital to those working in the medical field.