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York College Biology major works the front line as York Hospital EMT

Trevor in front of WellSpan York Hospital Emergency Center

It can be grueling to wait for COVID-19 test results. People who experience the symptoms—a cough, fever and headache—often quarantine themselves in a room all alone. It can be a solitary time. Trevor Cohenour ’22, an EMT with WellSpan York Hospital, experienced it firsthand.

While he waited an entire week in March to see if he had the coronavirus, Cohenour worried about exposure to his mother, who would be considered a high-risk patient because of her lupus. Kept to one bedroom in his parents’ home, he would text his dad if he needed something. “The stress made it really challenging,” he says. “What if my exposure made my mom sick?”

On the job

Cohenour’s test results came back negative, but the experience made going back to work and helping patients even more personal. He started working at York Hospital as a security guard five years ago, but he quickly moved on to become an EMT. As a veteran in the Army National Guard, he experienced some medical training that piqued his interest in healthcare. It ultimately pushed him to get his EMT license.

The York College Biology major normally works in the Emergency Room at York Hospital. Since WellSpan set up COVID-19 testing tents outside the ER, he has spent several shifts collecting samples from patients who suspect they have the coronavirus. In a four-hour period, Cohenour says, he might test six to eight patients, many who have symptoms but are not ill enough to require hospitalization. In addition to collecting a sample for a test swab, he offers the patients information, gives them a school or work excuse, and uses a portable x-ray machine to get images of their lungs.

On days when he worked the ER, Cohenour would treat patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and had worsening symptoms. Many had increased shortness of breath. Some needed to be intubated to help control their breathing. Several patients were young people with no concerning medical history.

Working together

Working in the ER during COVID-19 actually proved to be an overall quieter experience, Cohenour says. Before COVID-19, there was a steady stream of people coming to the ER. Now, it’s relatively calm, he says. Because of the slowdown in emergency visits, WellSpan has actually distributed messages to let people know they’ll be safe should they need to visit the hospital for an emergency.

Cohenour has found the camaraderie among his colleagues at the hospital to help him get through the long days. They often tease him for telling too many “dad jokes.” “I know it’s important to keep our spirits up, even though things can be pretty serious,” he says. “We’re all working through this together.”