When you thank our healthcare heroes for braving this deadly pandemic, be sure to include Courtnie Yokono.
Courtnie graduated in December 2019. With a freshly-minted degree from CTAHR’s Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology program, she planned to follow her original goal of working in a laboratory and pursuing a career in biomedical research.
“My labwork at UH was medical-based, and I wanted to do something the human race would benefit from, to help people,” she says. “But during my interview, Diagnostic Laboratory Services told me they had openings either in lab research or as a phlebotomist, my choice. I wanted patient care experience, which would be good to have on my resume. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and took the phlebotomist job.” She chose Queen’s Medical Center because “it’s the biggest hospital and Level I trauma center – and I wanted to be where the action is.”
But Courtnie had no idea that within weeks, she would be showing up daily on the frontlines of a global pandemic.
“In the ER, everyone is treated as if they have Covid until their test comes back negative – it’s for our protection,” she explains. “If a patient was in a car accident, we have to treat them right away, but we won’t know right away if they have Covid. So we assume they have it.”
May You Live in Interesting Times
At first, Courtnie was nervous. It took 45 minutes (yes, she timed herself) to draw blood from just two patients – most of it spent putting on and taking off the N95 mask, face shield, hair nets, gloves, plastic gown, scrubs, covered shoes, booties over shoes – and washing and sanitizing her hands after every step. Protecting herself, patients and colleagues is priority one, and besides that, Courtnie has two older parents at home.
“It was nerve wracking, but this job has opened my eyes to what I’m capable of,” she says. “I never thought I could handle blood and gory stuff, but now I’m able to see myself in my patients.”
Due to the pandemic, Queen’s has a one-visitor-per-patient-per-day policy, but Covid patients aren’t allowed any visitors.
“Sometimes the good moments are connecting with a patient,” she says. “Especially very old patients; they don’t know why they’re here. They tend to hold my hand, and I’m the only person who can give them that contact and be in the room with them. I do everything I can to make them comfortable and let them know what’s going on. Just answering their questions is huge for many patients – and I think the world needs more of that right now.”
She adds, “Having compassion and patience for others is the biggest thing I’ve learned,” she says. “Dr. David Christopher’s MBBE 304 class in Ethics really helps me now, to understand how people process things through their personal values, how they make a certain meaning of it, and we all have to respect that. His class helped me prepare for this job.”