Delano healthcare worker shares story on working through pandemic, COVID vaccine

October 28, 2021 /

Elizabeth Gamboa, 24, was born and raised in Delano and has always had a passion for helping people while being in the medical field.

When she found out Psychiatric Technicians are more focused on mental disorders and nursing science, she knew it was the perfect fit for her. 

She began working as a CNA in Spring of 2016 while pursuing a degree in Registered Nursing. Gamboa completed the pre-requisites at California State University, Bakersfield and then transferred out to Porterville in the Spring of 2019 to begin the Psychiatric Technician program, which she will be completing in December of 2021. 

While in school, she also obtained an EMT license (board certified) in Fall of 2018 and is currently focused on graduating and then studying for the BVNPT state boards exam.

Gamboa currently works in a few care homes, which are privately owned, and they care for six patients per house. 

“They are developmentally and intellectually disabled so they require concentrated care from staff,” said Gamboa.”Certain things we do as care providers is assist patients with bathing, cooking, feeding, dressing, ambulating, administering medications, and preparing fun activities for them to engage in to work on social or interpersonal skills.” 

She also said as a Psych Tech student, she attends clinical hours at State Hospitals in CA. She interacts with patients that also have developmental and intellectual disabilities, but they have committed crimes. 

“Another population I have interacted with and been a part of their treatment team includes sexually violent predators (SVPs) and offenders with mental disabilities (OMDs). It is intimidating to work with this population, but I have discovered that I am empathetic by nature, so I am able to provide therapeutic interactions with these people — who society has completely deemed as evil,” said Gamboa.

The biggest lesson she has learned is that you should always be aware of your surroundings and be kind to others, regardless of their background. 

Before the pandemic, she said people in general seemed more care-free and socially isolated from others. They all kind of did their own thing and mental health did not really seem to be talked about. However, after and during the pandemic, she noticed the shift towards wanting to be more social with each other. 

“I think it has to do with having more gratitude for the simple things we used to take for granted. For instance, being able to smile at one another. Now, our smiles are hidden behind face masks and cameras via Zoom meetings,” said Gamboa.

During the pandemic, she said at work they struggled immensely and were stressed out beyond belief, especially before the vaccines were even developed or heard of. She feels like they all lost all hope for a couple months and did not know who to turn to when everyone and their families began getting affected by COVID-19. 

“We were extremely understaffed due to people getting sick. I remember having to work doubles and practically living at my job. Everything seemed scary and confusing. However, I remember being grateful for being able to lend my help to my patients, while taking as many safety precautions as possible,” said Gamboa.

Now, because of the vaccine, things seem to be getting better. The vaccines have allowed them to maintain  good health and develop stronger immune systems against this virus. Some people are still being affected, unfortunately, but for the most part, it has been controlled in her workplace. She said they continue to wear face masks and take their daily temperatures before entering the facility. 

Gamboa got both vaccine doses back when they first came out, and has been safe from COVID-19 throughout the entire pandemic. 

“I am not a doctor, but as a healthcare worker who has seen the effects of the virus on numerous patients, I strongly recommend people consider getting it,” said Gamboa. “I understand, and respect, that everyone has their own beliefs and opinions, yet the numbers don’t lie. The vaccine is effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19, so it works.”

Gamboa can genuinely say it was the best decision she ever made choosing this career. She said for anyone wanting to pursue a career in nursing, but also have an interest in mental health, this career path is a great one. It is only three semesters long, so it can be done quickly.

“It gives me a sense of peace and accomplishment. If I know that I made a positive impact in one person’s life, then I have done my job. But, if I can influence and redirect negative behaviors and change them to virtuous ones, then it makes me feel even more grateful,” said Gamboa.  “Many people do not know what a Psych tech is or does, so I would like to be an advocate for this profession.”