Senior Rachel Stier’s final outdoor track and field season ended before it even started.
Her final indoor season wrapped up less than two weeks before the season was initially suspended, and the news was gut-wrenching to Stier, as well as to tens of thousands of other senior athletes nationwide.
“No one anticipated that this pandemic would cancel so many ‘lasts’ for so many people,” Stier said. “Knowing that I will never be a competitive athlete again, (like) I have been for the last eight years, is heartbreaking.”
Despite the sudden and unexpected end of her track and field career, Stier wasted no time getting to work helping those in need. In what would have been her final season as a sprinter, Stier has instead been working as a nursing assistant at Norwood Hospital.
Stier, a native of Mansfield, Mass., works on the general medical surgical floor at the hospital. Her typical day entails obtaining vital signs, blood sugars, and electrocardiograms and assisting patients with common day-to-day tasks such as bathing. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a considerable uptick in “comfort measures only” patients, and a decrease in the general client population due to the reduction in elective surgeries. While Stier is not working on a dedicated COVID-19 unit, she still has regular interactions with patients who have tested positive.
Stier has been working side-by-side with her mother Lisa, a registered nurse, at the hospital. In high school, Stier wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to follow until she had the opportunity to shadow her mother at the hospital. From that day forward, Stier knew she wanted to be a nurse.
“Although we both share concerns about the other potentially being exposed to the virus, we are both thankful that we can go through this together,” said Stier.
Stier credits her time with the Lancer women’s track and field team with preparing her for the unique challenge of working in a hospital during a global pandemic. Four years of balancing a busy nursing curriculum with both indoor and outdoor track and field training regimens has taught Stier better time-management skills, while also teaching her the importance of working as a team.
“Caring for around 10 patients in a shift is not easy. However planning out my schedule for the day helps me to make sure all the tasks on my list are completed,” Stier said. “Secondly, every member of the care team has to work together to ensure the comfort and safety of all patients and other healthcare workers. When others need assistance, I have found that everyone will come together to collaborate.“
The teamwork required by the nurses in her unit is the number one thing Stier says she will take away from working through the COVID-19 pandemic. “The last three months, the healthcare staff has really only seen one another, outside of those that we live with,” she said. “I believe that now, more than before, healthcare staff has come together as a family. Everyone really tries to uplift the other staff members.”
The experience of working through the pandemic has confirmed for Stier that she made the right decision entering the nursing field as a career.
“Pandemic or not, I have always appreciated the time I have spent with patients,” she said. “It is a gratifying experience to be a member of a team that strives to heal others. During this pandemic, I have been a firsthand witness to the challenges and triumphs the registered nurses on my unit have faced. I hope to one day make as great of an impact as they have.”
“Rachel has always been the most positive, level-headed, and caring athlete on the team,” said Women’s Track and Field Head Coach Andrea Ouellette. “It’s no surprise she is putting herself on the front lines to help others during this time of need. She approaches everyone with a smile on her face, and having someone like that treating individuals during this pandemic is exactly what we need. It’s been such a pleasure having Rachel as part of our program these past four years. She’s going to be such an asset to any healthcare provider and hospital out there. Her patients are in great, truly caring hands.”
As the weather starts to get nicer, Stier wants to emphasize that the virus has still not gone away. “Following the state guidelines is of the utmost importance right now. The less contact we have with others now, the sooner we can see them in the future.”
She says the support from Coach Ouellette, her teammates, friends, and family have been a lift through some of the most difficult times. “Although I can never get the last three months back, I find comfort in knowing that the relationships I have forged through Worcester State will continue on.”
This story originally ran on the Lancer Athletic website.
If you or someone you know is a current or former Worcester State student-athlete working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Sports Information Director Curtis Fraser at email@example.com.
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