Biochemistry student building strong foundation for career in geriatric medicine
Christina Witters of Webster is getting an early start on pursuing a career in geriatric medicine by working as a nursing aide while progressing through the Early Acceptance program that the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) offers in conjunction with Fredonia.
For the last two years, Witters has been a nursing aide at St. Ann’s Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in Webster, where she assists residents with activities of daily living, such as bathing, serving meals and household chores. Witters’ interest in geriatric medicine began in high school when she was a server at an independent living facility.
“I loved talking to residents and learning about their past and building connections with them. As I gained more experience working with the geriatric population, I knew it was something I would like to do for the rest of my life,” Witters said. “I love how the smallest thing can make a difference in their day and I love being able to provide care and comfort to them during uncertain times.”
It was at a college fair that Witters, then a junior in high school, learned about the LECOM Early Acceptance program. She “fell in love” with LECOM during a visit to its Erie, Pa., campus during her senior year. Being a LECOM affiliate college “definitely made me look first at Fredonia, but the campus, campus life and many other factors are what made me choose Fredonia,” the sophomore Biochemistry major from Webster said.
“I loved the concept behind osteopathic medicine,” Witters said. “The more I looked into it and learned about the patient-centered, holistic, and whole-body approach of care that osteopathic doctors provide, I knew I would want to be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine one day and LECOM would be the school for me.”
As a high school senior, Witters was provisionally accepted into LECOM’s Early Acceptance program’s 4+4 track before actually applying for admission to Fredonia. Upon fulfilling Early Acceptance requirements at Fredonia, Witters will have a reserved seat at LECOM in July 2023. She’ll begin a four-year residency in geriatric medicine after graduating from LECOM with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree.
Before the coronavirus, Witters was a resident service technician, coordinating activities such as bingo and bowling for St. Ann’s residents. Witters then received additional training to work as a nursing aide when the pandemic began, so she could help fill the void caused by staff shortages. She worked full-time during the summer and continues to help out during semester breaks, while also picking up a few shifts each month during the school year.
“If there is ever a slow period during my shift I like to spend time with my residents, whether it be painting their nails or having a simple conversation with them,” Witters said.
The impact of COVID-19 on residents has been heartbreaking, and many have not had visits from family members since last March. “This means we are their support and closest thing to family they have, to help them get through this extremely hard time,” Witters said. She also works with COVID-19 residents and has seen first-hand how awful the disease is and the toll that it can take on one’s life.
Through St. Ann’s, Witters recognizes how much of an impact she can have on another person’s life. She’s also grown to appreciate the importance of working as a team.
“In the nursing home everybody plays a significant role in making sure a resident has the best possible care from the housekeepers, aides, nurses, therapist, administrators, IT support, cooks, mechanics and doctors,” Witters said. “Everyone is key to keeping a resident alive and in comfort.”
Just how essential communication is among staff has been another takeaway from the skilled care facility. There can be no teamwork without communication, Witters said. She believes this clinical experience of caring for residents and patients will help her, as an osteopathic physician, coordinate patient care with the nursing staff.
Witters plans to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) when New York state resumes testing that it suspended during the pandemic.