COVID-19 Screener Talks about Being on the Front Lines

Screener Sharon Rohrer

Screener Sharon Rohrer wearing PPE

By Byron Hudson

Testing for COVID-19 is going to play a major role in saving lives during this pandemic. On the front lines as a screener, Sharon Rohrer, a Respiratory Therapist and a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist and Certified Asthma Educator with Mission Health, answers questions about the process and why it’s so important to flattening the curve in our community.

What have you seen from smokers who get COVID-19?

Because COVID-19 is such a respiratory illness, it’s actually hitting you harder if you smoke. So, it really would be a good time to quit to let the lungs heal, because it affects the lungs so heavily.

Should people be extra careful to wear a mask when doing outside activities like yardwork?

Most of the times when you’re outside, as long as you’re social distancing and taking other precautions like washing your hands, if no one’s around you, you don’t need to wear a mask.

How do you feel about the work?

Most of the people coming through understand what they’re getting and why they’re getting it. We really haven’t had much push back. The swab itself, although uncomfortable, is quick, so it’s not that big of a deal. And, they’ve given us everything we need—the PPE and computer—to do it.

What do you tell those coming in for testing?

I tell them that we’re going to stick a little, flexible swab down your nose until we hit resistance. So, it goes pretty far into the nose. It tickles at first, but then it may become a little uncomfortable, but we have to leave it there for five seconds. And, we’re twirling it so we get a good sample. Then we bring it out and stick it in our tube to go to the lab. Most people are tolerating it just fine. We actually do a lot of children.

People just drive up?

Yes, everybody stays in the car. It’s all done right there.

How do you feel about doing this for the community?

I’ve been a respiratory therapist for a really long time, and this isn’t like anything that we’ve experienced. Even the H1N1 virus was a little different from this. I actually don’t feel unsafe in this situation. I have enough PPE that I feel like I’m pretty safe. We assume that everyone coming through could be positive, so I’m going to treat it that way and always take the precautions that I need to keep myself safe.

How do you keep your visitors safe?

For everyone who comes through, we’re using hand sanitizer, we’re changing our gloves, we wipe down our face shields. The swabs are kept sterile. And, then we see the next person. So, there’s no way we’re transmitting anything from person to person. No one has to worry about getting it from us. And, we don’t have to worry about getting it from them.

Regarding testing, what do you see for the near future?

We’re already seeing it ramp up. As more and more surgeries ramp up, physicians are going to want everyone tested before they have their surgeries. I only see this getting busier as time goes on.

Are you in for the duration?

For however long it takes. And, I don’t see it slowing down this year.

Anything else that you’d like to add?

Follow CDC [1] [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines. They really know what they’re talking about. The social distancing and the mask wearing in public…as we open up, just keep in mind that you don’t know who’s positive and who’s not. It’s the asymptomatic positives who are spreading it the most. You could be an asymptomatic carrier. Act like you could have it as well and you don’t want to spread it. The masks and the social distancing isn’t just to keep you safe. It’s so you don’t spread it to other people, and you want to keep everybody else safe as well.

Sharon Rohrer is a Respiratory Therapist and a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist and Certified Asthma Educator with Mission Health.

For up-to-date information about Mission Health and COVID-19, and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit missionhealth.org/covid-19 [2].