KU Cares: Jayhawks on the Front Lines - Tayler Soucie

Tayler Soucie graduated with a Masters of Physician Assistant Studies from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the beginning of May. This past year she was on clinical rotations where she spent a month at different hospitals and clinics learning in different specialties.

During her time in Lawrence, Soucie was named Big 12 Female Sportsperson of the Year (2015-16), and finished her career 18th in career points (1,170) and 26th in career kills (867).

Learn more about her experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic below.

Q: How has COVID-19 affected your position? How has this affected the hospital/clinic that you work at?

Soucie: During our second to last rotation, towards the end of February, clinical sites started cancelling on my classmates and telling our advisor that they would no longer let students come learn at their facilities. Specialties we must complete a rotation in include orthopedics and general surgery and these specialties began cancelling surgeries since most of their cases include elective surgeries, so some of my classmates were not able to learn in that environment. If our rotation was cancelled, we weren’t sure at the start what that would mean for us. My classmates and I were stressed and anxious as we didn’t know if we would be able to graduate in May. Luckily, the governing entity over PA education allowed us to complete online modules to fulfill our rotation need if our rotation site had cancelled on us. My last rotation was in the Emergency Department and luckily was not cancelled. However, the census was very low while I was on my rotation. We were required to wear masks during our whole 12-hour shift and washed our hands religiously. My PA program had put a “rule” in place that students were not allowed to see COVID-19 patients, however, if there was a patient suspected of having the virus, medical staff properly gowned, gloved and wore N-95 masks while caring for the patient. There was probably two or less patients each shift that were tested for COVID-19 and not many of those tests were coming back positive. The hospital I was at and ones around were beginning to cut ER shifts for nurses and mid-level providers (Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners) due to the low census.

Q: What has been one of the biggest learning lessons from the pandemic?

Soucie: I think one of the things that has been brought to light because of the pandemic is the lack of knowledge on viruses and logistics of medicine, which is expected unless you have studied medicine or been involved in the healthcare field in some way. With media being so prominent in our society, it is important to decipher what is real and what is not as there are so many different resources out there. That task can be very difficult! My education included learning how to find evidence-based information. This skill I have learned will be important as I educate my patients, friends and family on diseases, treatments and other medical related topics. Lack of knowing and understanding is one of the biggest causes of fear, which is why educating on these topics is so important.

Q: How has your community been affected?

Soucie: I live in Omaha, Nebraska, and we are not really seeing a high amount of COVID-19 cases. There are places like Hastings, Nebraska, that have seen a jump in numbers due to an outbreak at the meat packing plants. I think this just proves how social distancing helps decrease the spread. Everything had been shutdown until May 4th, which was when our restaurants were allowed to open back up with strict guidelines as were stores and gyms as well. Some places are still choosing to stay closed. My husband is a financial analyst and he, and many others, have been working from home. Our community has come together to support small businesses the best we can. For example, I am a part of a Facebook group called “Omaha Food Lovers.” People will make posts about restaurants that are struggling and needing some support.

Q: How are you, your classmates handling the pandemic?

Soucie: We just graduated May 8th and many of us are finding it difficult to find jobs. With people not traveling, being in groups and having activities, not as many people are getting sick or injured and many are scared to go to the clinic for follow-ups and wellness check-ups. Due to hospital and clinics having a low census, they are on a hiring freeze. I think we are all just trying to be patient. We are studying for boards and waiting for things to calm down and jobs to become needed.

Q:What advice do you have for anyone reading your story?

Soucie: I would just encourage everyone to do research and trust your medical providers. There are a lot of false statements out there, but there are also a lot of good resources. The best resources are your medical professionals who have been taught how to do the evidence-based research and put many hours into learning about medicine. The reason we went into healthcare is to help people and at this time, that may just include providing the right information. It is also important to know that there is no way to stop anyone from getting this virus until a cure or vaccine is invented which will take months to years, so the point of quarantine and social distancing is not to prevent us from ever getting this virus, but more to avoid overwhelming the hospitals. I would also like to mention that just because here in Kansas and Nebraska, we may not be getting hit hard and having our hospitals full, doesn’t mean it is not real in other places. Those other places are densely populated. We mid-westerns are already pretty good at social distancing!

The only way we get through all this craziness is together! Keep washing your hands, social distancing and we WILL see an end to this.

Q: Anything else you would like to say, or add to Kansas Athletics, and the Lawrence community?

Soucie: I really do miss Lawrence, but I am glad and proud that I will forever be apart of Jayhawk Nation even in Nebraska. ROCK CHALK!!