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Mason athletic training graduates are playing an important role on the coronavirus frontlines

May 6, 2020   /   by Greg Sullivan

South Carolina outreach athletic trainer Andi Burtt, a 2013 graduate of Mason’s MS program in Exercise, Fitness, and Health Promotion, typically spends workdays helping school athletes with sports injuries and with injury prevention.

Andi Burtt. Photo provided.

Employed by Prisma Health, the largest not-for-profit health system in the Palmetto State, Burtt usually shows up at her outpatient clinic site around 8 a.m., works a hotline for local athletes in the mornings, and heads off every afternoon to River Bluff High School’s athletic fields in Lexington, S.C., where she covers every sport offered by her assigned school.

Recently though, like many Mason alumni in the athletic training field, her routine was swiftly altered by the coronavirus pandemic and she has found herself on the frontlines.

“It was a big change. Our schools were closed, so we would sit out at the front entrances of the main hospitals,” Burtt said. “At first, we were just in charge of screening patients coming in and out, taking temps and handing out masks and just making sure no one’s coming into the hospital who’s not supposed to. Then, we started screening visitors, and, then, we started screening employees.”

While not what she was used to, Burtt said athletic trainers are used to the unexpected.

“We’re used to rain delays and lighting delays, and we’re used to coaches cancelling practice at the last minute,” said the Stafford, Virginia, native. “It comes with the job. It’s very cool to be a part of the great group of people that we’re working with right now.”

Burtt said she has since shifted to working at one of her health system’s nonhospital testing sites for those who may have coronavirus.

Jenny Eda. Photo provided.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Mason grads like Emily Boyd, BS Athletic Training ’15, and Jenny Eda, BS Athletic Training ’17, have also shifted from athletic training roles for their organizations to conducting screening work at large hospitals. Boyd works for VCU Medical Center Main Hospital in Richmond and Eda for Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk. Eda is also in charge of onboard training for new screeners placed at her health system’s satellite locations in the area and for ordering morning inventory for screening supplies.

For athletic trainer alums in clinic settings, the job has changed as well.

“Our daily patient load has significantly decreased to ensure proper social distancing,” said Elizabeth Cabello, BS Athletic Training ’17, who also works for Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters system. “It is now our responsibility to wipe down every surface after every use, including pens, drawer handles, the computer mouse, etc. One of our big changes is implementing telehealth. A couple times a week, I’m also a screener for employees and patients to check for potential COVID-19 exposures and symptoms before they enter our building.”

Professor Amanda Caswell, interim director of Mason’s School of Kinesiology and director of the athletic training program, said she’s proud of how Mason’s athletic training graduates are doing their part. “Athletic trainers are often thought of in the context of sport and athletics,” Caswell said. “But our ATs are working the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrating the health care versatility that ATs can provide.”