As the spread of the pandemic led to restrictions on international travel, Regis College nursing student Samantha Pereira ‘23, saw her plans to study aboard in Florence, Italy, quickly fade away.
Not wanting to miss out on the chance to learn and culturally immerse herself in a place beyond Weston, Pereira took it upon herself to find an alternative. And that opportunity came this semester in the form of a traveling certified nursing assistant job in Hawaii.
“It was certainly a last-minute decision,” said Pereira, a member of the women’s lacrosse team. “I have always been interested in a traveling nurse career, so when I saw there are opportunities for CNAs, I jumped at it.”
For most of the semester Pereira, who has been a CNA since high school, has worked with geriatric patients in long-term stay units at the Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu. Although she did not directly care for COVID-19 positive patients, Pereira said the coronavirus still significantly impacts her patients.
“Working in geriatrics during the pandemic is hard because the patients haven’t seen their families for months, so you become their family,” Pereira said. “I have become even more passionate about nursing since I started working here.”
Pereira, a recipient of Regis College’s Merit Scholarship and a student representative on the First-Gen Taskforce, works night shifts on weekends and a couple times during the week. She explained that treating one another as family is an important and cherished part of the culture at Kuakini Medical Center, between staff and patients alike. It is not uncommon, Pereira said, for her to call a patient “papa,” “mama,” or “uncle” as a term of endearment.
“It is more personal to call them that,” she added. “They feel safer and more comfortable.”
In addition to her responsibilities at the medical center Pereira has continued with her regular course work. But attending class in Hawaii means her 9 a.m. EST class starts at 4 a.m. local for her.
“It has been good because the semester was split into the two, 8-week terms so that meant less classes at a time,” she said. “I just try to plan ahead and stay on top of things.”
Pereira’s contract in Hawaii ends later this month and the West Yarmouth resident will return to Massachusetts to prepare for next semester. And while this once-in-a-lifetime experience had its ups and downs, Pereira said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I love he work I did here, and I love the people I worked with,” she said. “I would never have come to Hawaii if I didn’t have this opportunity.”