Working through a pandemic
WCTC graduates share how their jobs have changed since spring
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have experienced a marked shift in the way they perform their jobs. Those deemed frontline or essential workers have continued to report to their workplaces, while others began working from home.
Below, Waukesha County Technical College graduates share their experiences about how their workplaces and their roles have changed in the wake of a pandemic.
Teila Safforld '19 | Early Childhood Education
Teila Safforld, a 2019 graduate of WCTC's Early Childhood Education program, is an administrator for ShaNANNYgans Childcare Center in Milwaukee. In the past six months, the center has experienced multiple changes and implemented new protocols to keep children and staff safe.
Safforld said the center has had to be flexible in its operations, following criteria set forth by the State of Wisconsin and City of Milwaukee – from phased reopenings, intensified cleaning efforts, physical distancing guidelines, updated drop-off procedures and more.
Centers were initially allowed to remain open, however, at just 25 percent capacity. Priority was given to children whose parents or guardians were essential workers, and that led to scheduling issues. Thankfully, Safforld said, many parents who transitioned to at-home work kept their children with them, or had friends or family care for them, so space was available for essential workers' children.
"A lot of parents were understanding; some even cut their hours down, just so other families could have a slot," Safforld said, noting that capacity has since increased to 75 percent.
Despite the changes, children have taken it in stride, she said.
"The kids have been pretty reasonable, and they're telling us they know what they need to do!" she said.
One adjustment, however, came as the new school year began. Since many K-12 schools shifted to online learning, center staff has been assisting older children and making sure they are in their virtual classrooms and staying on task.
"With all the children on the internet at once, it has been challenging," Safforld said. "The silver lining will be when it's all over and we can say we got through it!"
Michael Potnek '12 | Nursing
Michael Potnek is a nurse practitioner at Outreach Community Health Centers in Milwaukee and an adjunct faculty member at Marquette University and WCTC. He earned his associate degree in Nursing from WCTC in 2012, followed by a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2015, and master's degree and Doctor of Nursing Practice from Marquette in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Before COVID-19, Potnek saw patients in person five days a week. That has shifted to three days a week, plus one day conducting telehealth visits and another handling COVID-19 testing. (His clinic is a location for one of the COVID-19 testing sites in the City of Milwaukee; healthcare professionals work in tandem with Milwaukee Fire Department staff to perform testing.)
"For everybody, it's been taking on more responsibility while still doing everything we were doing before," he said. "The way that we are managing patients' health conditions is a little bit different, because now, we're talking about a pandemic – where patients with immune disorders or diabetes or lung diseases are all at significant risk for complications, should they get sick with COVID-19."
Plus, with flu season on the horizon, that adds another layer of complexity to healthcare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates around 60 percent of adults will want flu shots this year, which is much higher than normal. That leads to challenges of how providers meet patients' needs with vaccine supplies and, logistically, with maintaining social distancing and keeping people safe, he said.
To work in healthcare during this unprecedented time provides opportunities and learning experiences for practitioners and Nursing students alike, Potnek said.
"I tell my students that this is really a fulfilling time to be a nurse and to be becoming a nurse because there hasn't been something like this since the 1918 flu pandemic," he said. "It's really going to be our job to nurse the country back to health physically, be there emotionally for patients, and help them manage the stress and the anxiety of the situation."
Joy Rohlinger '18 | Truck Driving
After spending 18 years as a pharmacy technician, Joy Rohlinger '18 switched careers and became a truck driver, graduating from WCTC's Truck Driving program. Her husband, Andrew, owns the trucking company Last Call Logistics in Mayville, Wis., and while they were dating, he encouraged her to consider a career change. She did, and she's been driving professionally with the company for nearly two years.
Rohlinger said she has felt changes to different aspects of her job, namely procedures followed for deliveries and the types of loads she transports.
Under normal delivery circumstances, it was a straightforward process: she would stop at the shipping and receiving desk and hand paperwork directly to a worker. Now, she says, each company has a different system.
"A lot of places, you call to check in and you put your paperwork right inside the trailer before backing intothe dock.The paperwork is signed, put back into the trailer and you get the green light to go," she said. "Some places, you may never see another person!"
Generally, Rohlinger transports materials such as building supplies, steel and other dry freight. At the start of the pandemic, when manufacturing slowed, her cargo changed to goods like bottled water and canned food. "We only really had one slow week – that first week after the (state-issued) shutdown," she said.
While loads have changed and businesses have felt interruptions, materials and goods still need to be transported.
"We feel a lot of the repercussions of the great unknown right now. Businesses are fumbling, trying to figure out what they're doing, and that really translates down the line because things are delayed or orders get pushed back," she said. "It's still a little unusual."
Henrietta Bogyay '19 | Global Business
Henrietta Bogyay '19, a graduate of WCTC's Global Business program, is the international sales representative for Europe (including all Commonwealth of Independent States) for Hydro-Thermal. The Waukesha-based company manufactures three-way direct steam injection valve systems used in a numberof industries.
In her role, Bogyay helps manage the company's sales on an international level. She is tasked with multiple responsibilities, among them replying to inquiries, preparing proposals and contracts, booking freight, writing export documents, working with the company's export compliance program and related duties.
Bogyay worked from home for much of spring and early summer, and returned to her office in July, with numerous safety, social distancing and face mask guidelines in place.
Because of the pandemic, some of Bogyay's orders were delayed as the supplier manufacturing facility is located in Asia, and there have been disruptions and setbacks in shipping items globally.
"It is usually only an issue with actuators coming from China/Taiwan. I have one particular order going to England. The heater was ready since April, yet shipping is delayed because the actuator that ‘drives' the mechanic part of the heater is delayed. There is still not a specific time set when it will be shipped to the United States," she said.
Slowly, Bogyay said, she sees business operations returningto normal.
"Orders are processed even with a delay," she said. "The suppliers have to cover orders from the last six months, but things are moving in a positive direction."