COVID-19 Symptom Attestation

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  • Hello, my name is Athena, and I'm
  • so glad to see you all today.
  • I'm with Outreach in Continuing Education and Western
  • C.A.R.E.S. here at Western Washington University,
  • and I'll be acting as your host today
  • for this session of Stories To Tell.
  • A quick note, the interview is being recorded,
  • and they will be archived for the Center
  • for Pacific Northwest Studies and the South Asian American
  • Digital Archives.
  • And they're going to be made available to the public
  • for research, teaching, and education, so just keep
  • that in mind today.
  • And a little bit quickly about Western C.A.R.E.S..
  • We started this as a resource for us
  • to connect, and share, and maintain our sense of community
  • and engagement during these days when
  • we're trying to stay home, and stay healthy, and take
  • care of each other.
  • These are online interactive sessions
  • put on by your colleagues and peers who
  • are volunteering their time to share these interests
  • and experiences with you.
  • As your host, I'm going to introduce your session,
  • and then I'm here for any tech support you may need.
  • Know that you entered the call today
  • with your sound muted and your video
  • off because we are recording, and that
  • helps us keep the video focused on our speakers.
  • There will be time at the end though where
  • I'll turn back on your sound if you'd like to ask questions.
  • And always know that you can use the chat option on the side
  • and that we'll be monitoring that as well.
  • So thank you so much for joining us.
  • And now I'm going to hand it over for the interview.
  • Hi, everyone.
  • Thank you for joining Stories To Tell.
  • I'm Dharitri Bhattacharjee, and I
  • teach in the History department at Western Washington
  • University.
  • In this oral history series, our goal
  • is to explore a diversity of South Asian perspectives
  • on COVID-19.
  • The region of South Asia comprises India, Bangladesh,
  • Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan.
  • This is our last week in Stories To Tell, so today and Thursday
  • at 2:00 PM Pacific Standard Time,
  • we will bring for you a new voice.
  • I will ask questions and have a conversation
  • for 30 minutes, then after which we encourage
  • you to ask questions to our guests,
  • and today that would be Gursewak Singh.
  • Minorities and immigrants are routinely
  • absent and underrepresented in archival collections,
  • hence I could not be more excited to be
  • convening the series.
  • I will be conducting the interview,
  • but there are several people who are responsible for making
  • this happen.
  • I want to acknowledge the contribution
  • of Western C.A.R.E.S. Program Specialist, Athena Roth,
  • and Center for Pacific and Northwest Studies
  • Archivist, Ruth Steele.
  • And welcome, Gursewak.
  • Thank you so much for taking the time to join this.
  • So let me first start by asking how you identify yourself?
  • I know you were born in the US.
  • Is that right?
  • Yes, so myself, so I'm a Punjabi Sikh American,
  • so basically the American part is self-explanatory.
  • I was born in America in California.
  • But so the Punjabi part, Punjab is a state--
  • a Northern state-- part of India.
  • So a lot of culturally they've influenced me,
  • and that's part of my upbringing.
  • And then Sikh is my religion.
  • The basic three principles that we have just
  • briefly are Kirat Karo which means to earn an honest living.
  • Naam Japo which is to meditate and have a connection with God
  • and see them in everyone.
  • And then Vand Chhako, which is
  • to share whatever you have with others
  • and give back to the community in any way you can.
  • So that's just a brief explanation of who I am.
  • Mm-hmm, so you said you were born in California.
  • So tell us a little bit about growing up in California,
  • your childhood, teenage years, but also when
  • did you and your family move to Washington?
  • So, yeah, like I said, I was born in Stockton, California.
  • I was born and raised there.
  • Really my upbringing, because of how diverse California is
  • and how I feel it's progressive in the sense
  • that there are so many different groups of people,
  • so many different backgrounds, so many different cultures that
  • are there, growing up, that was the norm for me.
  • You know, having a class full of people of all different colors,
  • all different cultures, and just always feeling
  • that we are all one.
  • You know, we learn from each other,
  • and we were all just one people.
  • But there was a lot of different influences.
  • Like there were a lot of African-American people,
  • a lot of Mexicans, a lot of different backgrounds,
  • a lot of people from South Asian communities as well.
  • So I never felt like an outsider as far
  • as growing up in California.
  • But we moved up to Washington in around 2008
  • to be closer to our family in Surrey
  • on the other side of the border in Canada.
  • The only real-- well, initially the real shocker,
  • the real change as I was starting elementary school then
  • at that time was that walking into the classroom,
  • I didn't see as much diversity.
  • And I didn't see as many people that looked like me.
  • For example, from the whole school,
  • there were only two or three--
  • two actually-- that wore turbans like I
  • did, or were South Asian or South Indian people sort of.
  • So that really was a shock, you know,
  • being in a classroom that didn't have as much diversity.
  • And initially, I thought of myself as an outsider,
  • but the more as I grew up with these people,
  • they became my friends.
  • I got to know what they were about
  • and what they thought of me, what they thought
  • of us as cultural or different types of people,
  • and what their initial responses to that.
  • I had learned to see that a lot of them
  • were very, very welcoming, and they
  • didn't have any sort of resentment,
  • or any sort of underlying hatred,
  • or anything like that, right?
  • So that was very nice to see.
  • That even though I wasn't accustomed to having
  • a classroom full of people that didn't relate to me
  • or didn't relate to being so diverse.
  • but they were very accommodating,
  • and very, very nice people in general
  • in Washington I would say growing up.
  • So it was a nice experience here as well-- different,
  • but it was very nice.
  • And where do you live right now?
  • Do you live in Bellingham?
  • Yeah, so we moved to Ferndale, Washington, here.
  • So but I did grow up in-- like, I
  • went to several different schools.
  • And during high school, I went to Meridian,
  • and I went to Ferndale High School as well.
  • I played sports here as well with a lot of my friends.
  • And just seeing, you know, going to different places,
  • seeing how people reacted.
  • Because in Washington, I feel like there's not
  • that much of a big representation of South Asian
  • communities here, and people--
  • like going into different towns for the first time,
  • people seeing me playing on basketball court,
  • and stuff like that.
  • But the general response wasn't that of like,
  • you know, "Oh, this is weird."
  • Like, "OK, now we're going to hate him."
  • It's sort of more like, we want to learn more
  • about it because we've never seen somebody
  • that looks like you, you know?
  • So that was very nice that people
  • weren't choosing to be ignorant and choosing to be hateful.
  • It was nice to-- wherever I went in Washington,
  • there were people that were very nice and very kind.
  • They just wanted more information,
  • and they asked me questions and just
  • to get to know me as a person better,
  • and to understand what sort of background and culture
  • that I had so.
  • It was like I said, Washington has very, very nice people so,
  • yeah.
  • That's great.
  • So tell us about your school, your education right now.
  • I know you are [? actually ?] in school,
  • but you are also working, and you know with what's happening.
  • Because we want to start talking about you
  • as an essential worker, you know, like, experience.
  • But, yeah, tell us about what degree are you working towards,
  • and what work you're doing, and what's
  • your career plan as of now?
  • So the end goal for career-wise is
  • that I want to become a nurse practitioner.
  • So the general requirement for that
  • is just basically a doctorate in Nursing.
  • So starting out right now and working
  • on getting my bachelor's in Biology,
  • which is like I'm in my last year and a half of getting
  • that done at Bellingham Technical College.
  • And then the classes that they don't provide,
  • I'll be going to Whatcom.
  • And then the classes that they don't
  • provide, I'll be going to Western to finish it all up.
  • I'm trying to be as cost-effective I can be.
  • So that's why I'm working towards that.
  • But after I've done my bachelor's in Biology,
  • I'm going to be doing an accelerated program
  • at the University of Washington to get my bachelor's in Nursing
  • in order to get into Nurse Practitioner School so.
  • So we've got a long ways to go, but we'll get there.
  • And then as far as my work, I work as a nursing assistant
  • at Mt.
  • Baker Care Center.
  • The reason why I decided to go down that line
  • was because in order to get into Nurse Practitioner School
  • initially, you need to have a certain amount of hours
  • of clinical work.
  • So I just wanted to sort of expose myself
  • to the medical field in that sense,
  • so that's why I decided to become a nursing assistant.
  • So you mentioned that you moved from California,
  • which was far more diverse, to Washington
  • because your family wanted to be close to other family
  • in Surrey, and that has a very, very big Punjabi Sikh
  • population.
  • So how has your family, in particular, but also
  • your community done during the pandemic?
  • Can you tell us a little bit about family, community,
  • everything?
  • Yeah, so specifically, I'll start with my family.
  • So my parents, my father, he works
  • as a truck driver, and then my mother,
  • she works in the medical field as well.
  • She's a phlebotomist.
  • So our, my mother's and I, we sort of had the same reactions
  • as far as work going.
  • Like we had to be mindful of everything
  • in order to keep the infection rate down, you know?
  • We had the same guidelines to wash our hands, the same PPE,
  • same mask-wearing, and everything, et cetera.
  • But the main sort of normal-world job
  • that my dad has, that's the one that I saw get
  • hit the most in the way that he had
  • to sit at home for a month and a half
  • because he did not know if-- and we as a family,
  • we didn't know-- if he was safe to go out.
  • There weren't many precautions being put out
  • at the time for everybody.
  • They weren't being mandated.
  • So we just didn't know if he was putting himself
  • at risk going out when nobody else was really
  • taking the proper precautions.
  • So we were really wary of that, so that's
  • why my dad had to take a month and a half off, so that's him.
  • And then my mother, her, like a lot
  • of people in the medical field, the hours like a lot of people
  • that were on per diem in her job that we're working there,
  • they got laid off because they just didn't have the hours.
  • They just didn't have the means to support
  • that many staff I guess.
  • So that was another shortage that we saw.
  • And then lastly, with my grandmother,
  • she is actually a resident of the United Kingdom,
  • so she's from England.
  • So the biggest thing with her was
  • that she obviously couldn't fly back to England anytime soon.
  • So we knew that was coming up.
  • But then also the thing that we were really worried about
  • was she has a lot of medication that she was not
  • able to get here.
  • So when this whole pandemic started out,
  • we didn't know what was going to happen,
  • if we were going to have to pay out of pocket to get those,
  • or if we were going to have to get a prescription
  • or anything like that.
  • So we ended up just going to the day clinic at the hospital.
  • And then we just said, hey, this is our grandmother.
  • She's a UK resident.
  • She doesn't have any sort of traveler's insurance
  • or anything like that here, but she is
  • running low on her medication.
  • She can't go back because of COVID, so what
  • are we supposed to do?
  • And they actually responded with they just said,
  • OK, we'll just take any medication that you have,
  • any prescription.
  • They just wanted an old prescription
  • that they could see that a doctor from England
  • wrote out for her.
  • So we provided that, and they just
  • ended up refilling all of the medication for her
  • and everything like that.
  • So it was nice to see that a lot of the community
  • did know this is a tough time for everyone,
  • and that this is a good time to be
  • lenient with things like this and helping everybody.
  • Because COVID is actually hitting everybody
  • quite equally, you know, some that
  • are getting directly affected, but most
  • are getting affected in similar ways as well.
  • So it was nice to see how they related with that
  • and really try to help us out.
  • Mm-hmm, OK, so it's been difficult,
  • but you're getting through it, your family.
  • Yeah.
  • And tell us about your work at Mt.
  • Baker.
  • What work do you do?
  • You are a nursing assistant.
  • What does that involve?
  • So before COVID, our general job description
  • or what we would do is-- so Mt.
  • Baker Care Center in Fairhaven, Washington, that
  • is a skilled nursing facility.
  • So a lot of the patients that we work with,
  • they have some cognitive issues.
  • Like some do have dementia.
  • Some have different varying types of diseases
  • that render them a little bit incapable of doing
  • everyday activities by themselves,
  • so we help them with that.
  • You know, and generally, I work the evening shift.
  • So we schedule our routine around mealtimes of dinner,
  • right?
  • So the biggest thing with our facility
  • was that we really wanted the residents to feel
  • like they're at home, you know?
  • And we don't want this to feel like a hospital setting.
  • So we had really strong life enrichment program.
  • So they would always be constantly working
  • with the residents trying to make sure
  • that they felt like this wasn't basically
  • a hospital like they just come in and sit in the bed
  • and that's it.
  • But we'd have activities that they do like bingo, painting,
  • or they'd have movie nights, you know.
  • And the biggest aspect of that whole social thing
  • was that we used to take the residents during mealtimes
  • to a social dining room.
  • So they'd come down, we'd bring the residents in,
  • and then we'd take their orders, and then we'd bring them back.
  • Then all the residents would be able to converse
  • with other people--
  • other residents.
  • They would have a relatively normal life or as normal
  • as can be.
  • And the biggest thing was when we as a facility
  • encouraged their families to come in during mealtimes as
  • well, to come and sit together and have
  • meals with their parents, their grandparents.
  • And it was a really good socially uplifting environment
  • for the residents as well as for the families
  • because they felt like their parents were
  • loved for everything.
  • They were able to be there for them.
  • So that was the whole sort of-- so we just
  • cater toward those needs, like if they need help with anything
  • like dental care, helping them get to the bathroom,
  • or helping them walk back to bed, just anything,
  • getting clothed, getting dressed, getting ready for bed,
  • or getting ready for meals, or anything like that.
  • So that's generally what a nursing assistant does.
  • It just helps aid the nurse that's on duty,
  • like, help her do her job, and help get anything done.
  • But how has that changed?
  • I'm thinking that social distancing is the norm right
  • now, so how did that change with COVID?
  • I mean, are the patients not allowed
  • to meet their families anymore, are they?
  • Yes, so the biggest thing--
  • well, initially, we had to go down
  • in the lockdown and everything, sort
  • of like implement our own social distancing, our own infection
  • control procedures.
  • Because early January before COVID
  • was even a thing or as far as coming into America
  • and spreading rapidly, we had a different upper-respiratory
  • virus come throughout the whole building.
  • You know, a couple of our residents
  • got it, like two or three, and we did not want it spreading.
  • So we shut down the whole social dining room.
  • You know, we prevented family coming in
  • without the correct screening, checking for temperatures,
  • checking if they have anything that
  • could make the residents compromised
  • in order to get this virus.
  • So we were really on our toes about that.
  • We took the mandatory precautions that were needed
  • and that were recommended by the CDC for just general viruses,
  • not the coronavirus specifically.
  • So we all had to wear masks.
  • We all had to gown-up for rooms that had the virus in them.
  • So we were really on top of everything.
  • You know, the social dining room is closed as well.
  • We weren't taking the residents out
  • to have meals or anything like that.
  • So we started on it really early prior to COVID hitting.
  • But then once COVID did hit, and stronger
  • mandated procedures were implemented by the governor,
  • we had to just say no to any or all visitors.
  • So no visitors were allowed.
  • And even if people wanted to come in to visit,
  • the only way was to do window visits with the windows closed.
  • So we would close the windows, and we'd
  • have them be face-to-face across the window,
  • but they would have to call over the phone in order
  • to talk with each other.
  • So those are a couple of the things that were
  • really different about the two.
  • So can you tell us a little bit about how did it
  • impact the inmates. I mean, the fact that they
  • were not able to see their families.
  • Like, we know about how social distancing has been difficult
  • for families, you know?
  • But, I mean, what is it like to be
  • inside a facility such as yours and then
  • not be allowed to sort of see family at all?
  • Can you talk about their mental state
  • or what were they expressing?
  • Yeah, so we as nursing aides, we learn a lot about mental health
  • with elderly being in nursing homes
  • feeling like they don't have any control over their life
  • sort of thing.
  • And being forced to just be in their rooms all the time,
  • not being allowed to go out, not allowed to even see
  • their family, I'm certain that took
  • a toll on a lot of the patients and a lot of the residents.
  • You know, just the simple fact of getting up and either
  • walking, or even going out of their rooms,
  • and going to the dining hall, and getting
  • that sort of stimulus to the brain where
  • people are around you.
  • They're having conversations.
  • You're having conversations.
  • Even for residents that had dementia and stuff like that,
  • we noticed a big drop-off in their mental health and
  • how they interact on a daily basis with us from before COVID
  • and after.
  • It's just generally, just a sense of like,
  • when is this going to end sort of thing
  • for the people that are alert and oriented.
  • But even for people like residents that do
  • have dementia and don't certainly
  • have a good grasp on things right now in general,
  • even they can subconsciously-- you
  • could see that they aren't feeling the best being told
  • to just stay in their rooms, no wandering about, no going out.
  • So it's been tough on them for sure.
  • Mm-hmm, and what about you?
  • I mean, we're reading all this about essential workers, right?
  • I mean, just the term has now become such an important term,
  • right?
  • Since March that the spotlight is on essential workers.
  • How has the experience been?
  • What has been some of the struggles, the challenges,
  • especially during the beginning months?
  • And I know in Washington, it got better then it got worse,
  • so there have been phases.
  • So can you talk to us about that, please?
  • Yeah, so basically, as essential workers,
  • it's really difficult to put into words
  • what it feels like because for us it just felt like, OK,
  • we're going to go to work now, right?
  • It was just a normal thing because, as I said,
  • we had been implementing the proper precautions
  • since January, and we had the proper equipment and everything
  • like that ready to go.
  • But even being well-equipped and everything,
  • I believe early April, or May, or sometime around there--
  • March or April-- when the state was mandated
  • to have masks, have PPE around with residents and everything
  • like that, ever since they mandated it,
  • a lot of the PPE equipment was running low nationwide, right?
  • Like for about a month or so where
  • it was a struggle to be able to wear a mask for one resident
  • individually.
  • Each time you go into a room it's a new mask
  • to prevent infections and stuff like that.
  • But it really hit us that we're really
  • in a pandemic sort of situation when
  • we were told that it's OK to wear
  • a mask throughout a whole shift no matter
  • how many residents you come into contact with.
  • So it was really like, OK, this is real, you know?
  • And like it's a nationwide thing.
  • It's not just like in some other third-world country
  • or like over the seas in Europe or something
  • where we're not going to be affected by it.
  • But we saw a big decline in PPE, and people
  • were struggling to get masks, or gloves, or stuff like that.
  • And it was like another thing was that we also
  • have a wing that accepts residents
  • from the hospital that are short-term care.
  • You know, they come in with like, they come in post-op.
  • They have like hip surgery or some type of shoulder surgery
  • where they're just going to be here
  • for a couple of days, a couple of weeks,
  • and then they're going to go on home.
  • So we had to shut that wing down as well because we didn't want
  • to bring new people into the facility that do have
  • or that may have a chance of having the virus, right?
  • So that was one of the other big changes.
  • And then along with that, as far as the PPE goes,
  • we were running so low at a certain point
  • that we had to wear like, nightgowns as actual PPE gowns,
  • you know?
  • Because we didn't have those, so we had to use nightgowns
  • to protect ourselves-- the ones that have half-sleeves
  • and your arms are showing.
  • So I mean, it doesn't really do much.
  • So at that point, it was really a question of are we
  • really keeping ourselves safe and stuff like that?
  • But the administration, they were
  • really good with keeping an open dialogue with us telling us
  • like, hey, we're running low on this.
  • This is what we're going to do instead.
  • And at a certain point, we were surprised to hear
  • that a lot of these other facilities--
  • like we knew other facilities were having problems,
  • but at a certain point different facilities
  • and different medical fields, they
  • were starting to barter these items.
  • They started doing exchanges amongst those administration's.
  • Like they were telling us a story
  • where they would give an X amount of boxes
  • to a different nursing home, and then that nursing home would
  • give us an X amount of gowns, or an X
  • amount of masks and something.
  • So that was very interesting to see how everyone's affected,
  • but there's a way to get through it, you know?
  • So we sort of just bartered our way through
  • and tried to buy some time.
  • And, yeah, that was very difficult too.
  • Because we couldn't ensure our own safety
  • while taking care of these residents,
  • so that was a scary time as well.
  • Mm-hmm, so there's a shortage of masks,
  • and you're an essential worker.
  • You want to keep your family safe, but at the same time,
  • you have to work because you need these hours.
  • Was it difficult showing up for work?
  • Well, it was difficult because, like I said,
  • the administration kept an open dialogue with us, you know?
  • And they told us everything that was happening
  • like who the CDC said was predisposed
  • to get this disease, and who was at the most
  • risk and everything.
  • So seeing these statistics, seeing all of the information,
  • a lot of the nurses around us were really questioning it,
  • especially the more elderly ones that had people at risk at home
  • or they were at risk themselves.
  • They started questioning if it was really worth it.
  • And then management was really, really accommodating
  • to say that, hey, even if you do decide to leave,
  • your position here is ensured or at least we
  • will try to work up working you back into the schedule
  • once everything settles down.
  • So there was a couple of nurses that ended up
  • having to take time off to be with their family
  • because they don't want to expose themselves to the virus
  • and then bring it back home where they have
  • a spouse or a family relative that has pre-existing health
  • problems that could get them hit harder by COVID.
  • So that's when it really starts to get you thinking about it
  • sort of.
  • Because not necessarily like, us, we're
  • relatively young-- you know, a lot of the aides
  • are relatively young-- so it wasn't a question about like,
  • oh, if you get it, are you going to survive?
  • It's more about when you take it home,
  • and especially if you're living with a family that
  • does have pre-existing health problems,
  • are they going to be safe, you know?
  • You don't want to be the reason that they end up
  • getting something that costs them their lives, right?
  • So there was a time where I was really
  • questioning if it was really worth it in that sense.
  • But at the end of the day, I did choose
  • to be in a medical field, so we're always going
  • to be at the frontline of this.
  • And this is one of the necessary sacrifices
  • to be made, so, we just took the extra precautions.
  • So we just made sure that we wiped everything down
  • in our cars before we went home, you know?
  • Made sure our scrubs were in a bag.
  • We'd change at work right before we get off shift or get
  • on shift so we wouldn't take those clothes back home that
  • were potentially infected but probably weren't.
  • But you know, we just wanted to take the proper precautions
  • in order to really make sure that our family was
  • safe above all.
  • Mm-hmm, so you know right now at the start of August,
  • school is starting.
  • So there are all these kinds of conversations
  • happening about school.
  • And I'm wondering what kind of conversations
  • happen in a medical facility where
  • you are medical practitioners?
  • And what are some of the critical conversations
  • happening?
  • How are you or are people in your sector, looking
  • at the future with optimism, with pessimism,
  • or a mixture of both, or how?
  • What are the conversations like?
  • So a lot of the aides that are working there,
  • they're nursing-bound.
  • So they're either in the nursing program
  • or they're going to eventually apply into the nursing program.
  • So the ones that were in the nursing programs,
  • they were telling me some really strange things that they'd have
  • to accommodate for because classes weren't--
  • at least this past spring quarter--
  • classes weren't allowed to be held in person.
  • So a lot of the clinical work that they were supposed to do--
  • well, clinical is where they go to a facility and practice what
  • they've learned, and passing out meds,
  • or doing things like that--
  • that totally got taken away.
  • So they weren't allowed to have the clinicals, so they didn't
  • have that clinical experience that they were supposed
  • to have which is really essential to actually know
  • what being a nurse actually feels like.
  • Along with that, even throughout their whole training,
  • they would have to simulate it.
  • They'd have computer programs where
  • it would be like, OK, in order to administer medication,
  • what do you do first?
  • And you'd have to click on a screen and say, OK, wash hands,
  • do this, right?
  • And for simple things like passing meds,
  • it's like, OK, that's self-explanatory.
  • We could get through it without having a hands-on experience.
  • But for things like administering a catheter,
  • or providing other medications, or any hard-- like giving
  • a flu shot, or things like that, right?
  • So stuff that you need to have a hands-on experience with,
  • those sort of things where it's being automated
  • and it's just to click on a screen,
  • I feel like it's kind of hard to learn
  • that way as far as nurses.
  • And it really puts into question the type
  • of nurses that they are going to become because they didn't get
  • the proper education as far as hands-on training
  • sort of things.
  • So it was interesting to see how all these things were being--
  • they're trying to get through it, obviously.
  • Like the schools, they don't want
  • to cost the students a year or so of waiting around,
  • but it's still very interesting for sure.
  • So what you're saying, I hear that as like the conversation
  • is how the pandemic is just shaping your sector in terms
  • of how nurses are now going to be trained,
  • at least over the few months.
  • Just the way nurses get trained, that's changing.
  • And the nurses themselves are questioning the kind
  • of education they're receiving.
  • What about your classes?
  • How have they gone?
  • Well, yeah, so one other thing about them
  • was that eventually going throughout their--
  • for now, they're on break, right?
  • But when fall semester comes, they
  • were saying that they were going to start doing clinicals again.
  • But the thing is if they're going to be exposing themselves
  • to hospital patients or stuff like
  • that, they wouldn't be allowed to work
  • at the facility like at Mt.
  • Baker Care Center.
  • So it's sort of like they have to choose
  • between making money and being able to pay rent,
  • or their education, or to be able to go into clinicals
  • and get that hands-on experience.
  • So that's going to be a tough decision
  • to make for a lot of people.
  • And I don't know if there is like an opt-out option
  • or a safer option, but these are the decisions
  • that these nursing students are going to have to go through.
  • But as far as my experience goes,
  • so I'm just working on my prereq sort
  • of getting into the science classes,
  • getting my chemistry series done,
  • and getting my anatomy stuff out of the way.
  • So at the time, I had generally, like a class that
  • is taught in person in anatomy, but this was the first quarter
  • that they did it online like a lot of classes were.
  • And generally, the experience was
  • I would say 75% positive, 25% negative.
  • The positive, mostly was how accommodating the teachers
  • were, and how accommodating the instructors,
  • and the professors were.
  • You know, they understood it was a pandemic,
  • and a lot of people, like some were working.
  • Right off the bat, I told them that I had work
  • and I have other responsibilities too
  • to the house, you know?
  • Because my parents, they haven't been going out and getting
  • groceries and stuff like that.
  • I've had to go in and go because I don't really
  • trust them to take the proper precautions and be safe.
  • So I was like, OK.
  • So I had a lot on my plate going on.
  • So they're very accommodating with deadlines
  • and really trying to provide us in any way
  • that they can with any help that we needed in that sense.
  • But also the thing is like a lot of the exams, I would say,
  • were open-book.
  • So we don't really have to commit a lot of the things
  • that we would necessarily have to in order for us to pass
  • a real in-class exam to memory.
  • So it was just questioning the quality
  • of learning that we got because we just
  • passed by with just very minimal amount of effort
  • committing stuff to memory sort of thing.
  • But and then the negative part was
  • that some of the instructors weren't as accommodating.
  • You know, they weren't as lenient with due dates
  • or they weren't as understanding,
  • I guess, about the pandemic which is very strange to me.
  • I think they assumed that there's a pandemic going on.
  • Everyone's at home.
  • There's no amount of stress going around,
  • which is very strange to me.
  • Because I feel like the world is at a very difficult position.
  • And students have to still worry about their grades and stuff,
  • you know?
  • And they start to learn, but there
  • should be some sort of understanding on their part.
  • But that was the only sort of negative part.
  • But overall it was not as bad as one would assume it would be so
  • So and how are things-- this is my last question on Mt.
  • Baker-- but how are things at Mt.
  • Baker right now?
  • You have all the protective gear that you need?
  • Are things looking better or?
  • Yes, so I think a couple months ago,
  • a lot of companies and a lot of the community
  • started seeing essential workers aren't properly protected.
  • They don't have the proper equipment.
  • So a lot of people in the community
  • started making masks by hand and then donating them to the hospital
  • or even to us.
  • So that was very helpful.
  • A lot of distilleries like alcohol distilleries,
  • they started switching up their production
  • into trying to make hand sanitizer for all of us.
  • And we started getting glass jars that
  • were supposed to be tequila bottles,
  • but they ended up being hand sanitizer,
  • being sent to our facility and stuff like that.
  • And a lot of diaper companies started making masks.
  • And so when we started, sort of had
  • to play catch up as a nation, you
  • know, trying to get us essential workers protected
  • and everything like that.
  • But eventually, we caught up, and now I
  • feel like we're in a good place where PPE-wise we do
  • have everything that we need.
  • We're still limited to one mask a day sort of thing,
  • so it's not like individual masks for individual people.
  • But we're making the most of it, and making sure
  • that we keep ourselves safe and the residents safe as well.
  • Well, these are incredible stories.
  • I mean, thank you for sharing these with us.
  • And there's a question that we're asking everyone
  • in the series is was there a moment when you realized
  • that you're living through a global pandemic, and if so,
  • can you describe the moment?
  • So really, like I said, we were in shut down early January,
  • right?
  • Because of the other virus that we had.
  • So switching over when it was like, OK, this is mandated now,
  • and switching over it wasn't really like, OK,
  • this is a pandemic.
  • We were just sort of going through the motions,
  • you know, not really thinking of it as bad as it is.
  • But then the news broke out that one nursing home here
  • in Bellingham, I believe, Alderwood or something,
  • they had like 30 residents or 30 people among staff
  • and residents get COVID in just in a matter of a day or two,
  • right?
  • So that's when, and then also in Kirkland, I believe,
  • closer to the Seattle area, they had
  • a person that came into the building,
  • and they brought in COVID, and they
  • didn't have the proper protection
  • or the proper protocols in place.
  • And that led to the whole facility getting the virus.
  • So those sort of stories really hit home with us,
  • and we didn't want to be the next frontline
  • page on Bellingham Herald that these guys didn't
  • do their jobs properly.
  • They cost so many of their family members--
  • so many residents' lives because we just
  • weren't careful enough so.
  • You know, from day one because of the open dialogue
  • that the administration and management had with us,
  • they would always just preach that you're
  • more likely to bring in the virus and give it to a resident
  • than you are from getting it from a resident
  • because they're always in their rooms.
  • But we're the ones that are out and about,
  • so it's our responsibility as health care
  • workers and essential workers to just take
  • the high road for a couple of months.
  • Don't go out partying like you normally do, you know?
  • And just sort of keep the social distancing,
  • keep good hand hygiene, and just overall be
  • safe in order to keep everyone around you safe.
  • I hear you.
  • I mean, it's something to read something
  • in the newspaper about what's happening in Wuhan
  • or what's happening in something in Italy,
  • but it's something that's happening in Seattle,
  • and in Bellingham, it like really hits you.
  • So is there anything else you would like to share with us?
  • Well, no, it's just the general, like I said,
  • as like initially we were ill-prepared
  • and just sort of like switching gears by the whole community.
  • You know, just providing, like I said,
  • the alcohol distillery, the company is starting
  • to make masks for us, trying to make sure essential workers are
  • safe and everything like that.
  • And the biggest thing was like just everybody starting
  • to do their part where we saw Washington state go down,
  • you know, the number of cases.
  • That was nice to see.
  • And it's just the overall message should just
  • be from everyone just to do your part, you know?
  • And I saw this thing on the internet
  • it's like we can literally save the world by sitting at home
  • and watching TV.
  • Like, it's not that hard to not be able to suppress this virus.
  • So we all really need to do our part
  • and just be focused on getting better as a society, you know?
  • And do our part and overall keep everybody safe around us so.
  • Thank you so much, Gursewak.
  • So Ruth thanks you.
  • You know, she's written on the text that thank you,
  • Gursewak for sharing your story and also all that you do at Mt.
  • Baker, and I would just like to add voice to that.
  • I mean, one, for talking to us it's Stories to Tell
  • but also for being an essential worker.
  • Thank you for deciding every day to go to your work
  • before your family and your private life.
  • So thank you for that, and now, if we
  • have any questions for Gursewak, this would be the time.
  • Hi, I do.
  • I do.
  • Hi, Amber.
  • Hi, Dharitri, I'm sorry.
  • Hi, Gursewak, I'm sorry that I'm driving a car with a sleeping
  • child in the back seat, so I'm going to do my best here.
  • But thank you so much for your story.
  • It was really quite moving to listen to you map out
  • the network of care in which you work,
  • and even to hear you speak with such grace
  • about your management and the way they communicated.
  • And I think throughout this whole series of Stories
  • To Tell, this is a kind of a pattern
  • that we've heard among Dharitri's guests
  • that there's really a sense among everyone she's
  • interviewed of being a part of a community.
  • And I think you drew that out really beautifully.
  • And I had a question for you that
  • sort of tries to tie together your upbringing as a Punjabi
  • Sikh American and the culture of the United States,
  • particularly because you work in a skilled nursing
  • facility with elderly patients.
  • My family is from Pakistan.
  • I've lived in India, and Pakistan, and Bangladesh,
  • over my whole life.
  • But one of the things that has always struck me
  • when I'm speaking to people from the subcontinent
  • is they tend to be very critical of the fact
  • that in the United States, the elderly don't live
  • at home with their families.
  • And so I'm wondering if you could speak a little bit
  • about that culture shift and whether you encounter
  • any resistance or criticism within the Sikh American
  • or the Punjabi community because of the kind of place
  • that [AUDIO CUTS OUT] have had conversations about that
  • [AUDIO CUTS OUT] where you work.
  • Yeah, so, well, the thing about the Punjabi Sikh community
  • and one of the main principles of Sikhism
  • is selfless service, right?
  • Where if we do have something-- if we do have an ability
  • to help other people--
  • that is like the priority of our religion,
  • and that's the go-to thing.
  • So not necessarily a lot of comments about that
  • from the community I feel like.
  • The main thing about--
  • like when I am in the facility and talking to other nurses
  • or anything like that, they have a general understanding,
  • and they obviously educate themselves as well about this.
  • Where we as a culture-- like the South Asian cultures and stuff
  • like that-- we tend to be like, we have the belief
  • that we should, as children, [? even ?] like our parents
  • took care of us when we weren't capable of doing it
  • for ourselves.
  • Like going down the line as our parents get older,
  • that responsibility comes back to us, right?
  • As their children, that we need to be
  • able to be there for them.
  • But the thing about American society is that they--
  • I've seen both sides of the field.
  • They're really big on independency, you know?
  • So they want to be like, OK, I'm 18 now,
  • and it's time to move out.
  • I want to have my own concerns, and my own responsibilities,
  • and stuff like that.
  • So they go down that route.
  • And then eventually, I guess it's just a norm.
  • Like, I've seen families here at the facility that people
  • tend to think that, OK, you sent your parents to the nursing
  • home.
  • That's neglectful.
  • Like, you have the necessary means to take care of them
  • at home.
  • Why are you doing this?
  • But the thing is a lot of families
  • that are in nursing homes, they're very, very loving
  • towards their parents, you know?
  • It's not like they don't want them
  • to be a part of their families.
  • It's that they just don't have the equipment.
  • They don't have the means.
  • They don't have the training in order to take care of them.
  • So it's not necessarily a bad decision
  • that they make that they're like,
  • OK, we're going to cast you off.
  • Nobody should ever feel guilty about that
  • because, at the end of the day, it's
  • what's best for their parents, what's best for their family.
  • For example, there's this one family
  • that they would always have one person every evening even
  • through like snow days.
  • I remember this past winter, there
  • was a couple of days where everybody was snowed in.
  • And even in those days where it was difficult to even get
  • on the road in the first place, they
  • would always show up and be there
  • for the grandmother and their mother, right?
  • So they were always there in the evening, have a meal with them,
  • have dinner with them.
  • And then they would get them ready for bed on their own,
  • you know?
  • Brush their teeth and take care--
  • do a lot of the cares for them, you know?
  • Because they felt like that was one way
  • that they were giving back to their parents.
  • So it was like it's not that it's neglectful,
  • so nobody should ever feel bad about that,
  • but it's just different cultures,
  • different ways that we take care of our elderly.
  • But, yeah, it's just the main difference
  • is that we as like South Asian communities,
  • feel like we have a responsibility
  • to do it ourselves, whereas, in American society,
  • it's more like if we're not capable,
  • we're going to find somebody that's
  • more suitable to the job.
  • Whereas, us, like Indians and us South Asian communities,
  • we're more like, OK, we're going to learn how to do it.
  • And we're going to try to do it to the best of our abilities,
  • right?
  • So not one is more right than the other,
  • but it's just different in their own ways.
  • Mm-hmm, Amber, that was a great question,
  • and Gursewak, a very, very nice response.
  • Yeah, thank you.
  • Yeah, and thank you for the question.
  • It was good.
  • OK, any other questions, anyone?
  • Well, thank you so much.
  • Back to you, Athena.
  • Thank you so much.
  • Another important and great conversation that really just
  • has me thinking and processing.
  • Thank you so much for being here today for this interview.
  • I really appreciate it.
  • Yeah, my pleasure.
  • Yeah, thank you very, very much.
  • And for what you're doing I want to echo that as well,
  • and thank you so much.
  • And just for being so honest about the whole experience
  • and how it's been for you and your family, thank you.
  • And thank you to our audience as well.
  • You're very important to us, and you ask wonderful questions.
  • And that's wonderful as well.
  • So thank you, everyone, for being here today
  • and for joining us for Stories To Tell.
  • We have one more, right, Dharitri?
  • We have one more on Thursday.
  • I hope you can join us.
  • That's the last one, so I hope everyone will come.
  • And then thank you, Ruth, and thank you,
  • Amber, for always joining in, and, Gursewak, bye-bye.
  • Thank you so much.
  • Thank you, and have a wonderful afternoon, everybody.
  • Thank you so much this interview.
  • Bye.
  • Bye.