LaShonda B. Allen '21 started her career as a respiratory therapist seventeen years ago after earning her bachelor's degree in cardiopulmonary science from Florida A&M University. She has been employed as a registered respiratory therapist (RRT) with Navicent Health in Macon since 2002 and is currently a student in Wesleyan's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
"While I love my career in respiratory therapy, I have found it hard to advance. Nursing has so many different avenues and so much more room for advancement. I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a career in nursing. I will still be able to take care of patients. That is what I enjoy most."
LaShonda said the first time she called Wesleyan to inquire about the nursing program she felt at home – like speaking with family. "I felt like I was a priority and not an option. This is one thing that made Wesleyan stand out when I was considering my nursing program options."
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has affected LaShonda’s current job as an RRT in multiple ways. Since the pandemic began, she has frequently worked in COVID ICUs where everyone is required to wear PAPR, an air-purifying respirator that uses a blower to force air through filter cartridges into the breathing zone of the wearer, and a hood for ventilation.
"I often spend more time in patients’ rooms holding their hands to let them know that I care and that I am not afraid to take care of them during this time. We wear masks everywhere we go. We change into surgical scrubs when we arrive and put on shoe covers. We are constantly cleaning and wiping down surfaces. It is mentally draining and physically exhausting."
The pandemic has also affected LaShonda's pursuit of her BSN degree. The virus has taken students out of the classrooms put them into an online learning environment. Technology glitches, learning curves, and new methods of teaching and learning have been a steady part of LaShonda’s education over the last six weeks.
"My cohort did not get to experience in-hospital clinicals and labs with real patients. Instead, we adapted to using online studying and digital patients. It has been a huge adjustment, but I think it has been going well considering our options."