For nearly two decades Sandy Lloyd had worked at a bank before getting laid off in the midst of COVID-19.
So she reassessed her life and took note of news reports that healthcare workers were walking off the job due to vaccine mandates.
“I wasn’t enjoying my job anymore… sitting at a desk every day,” she said, turning to the news reports. “They were losing a lot of people due to that. I thought ‘I need a job, they need people, let’s try it.’ I don’t think I would have ever pursued it if there hadn’t been a pandemic.”
Lloyd, a Corfu resident, began her new career on Dec. 6 of last year. While it may be only two months later, she has already embraced her new vocation at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia. She admits to the many hours and long shifts but has discovered that there’s more to the working world than banking. Her formal title is clinical nursing assistant, and the job duties are a catch-all for those in need: in need of a beverage or meal, new bedding, personal hygiene assistance, a delivery to the lab, and the like.
“I’m on the third floor … I wait on everybody, get them water, pass out food trays, assist the nurses. It’s on-the-job training,” she said. “I look at the patient as a customer; it’s using customer service skills. Just being there and doing what they ask is the number one priority.”
Lloyd has merely shifted her former training and experience to focus on patients that are recovering from surgery versus bank customers cashing a check. Working with many registered and licensed practical nurses, she’s been told that she’s a “natural” in her new field. That encouragement coupled with her own enthusiasm has prompted the 41-year-old to attend nursing school in the near future.
Lloyd’s sister Dustin Miller is a nurse, and she forewarned Lloyd that it’s a tough job, while her mom seemed incredulous that her other daughter was also going into the field. The only ones not taking her new passion so well are Lloyd’s sons Bryce, 7, and 10-year-old Brody, she said.
“They were a little upset because I work a lot of hours,” she said. “They miss their mama now.”
She works every other weekend, and the boys periodically spend time with their grandparents, “Nana” Janet and “Grumpy” Chris. Lloyd’s free time is spent playing with her sons and sleeping, she said. “We balance it all out,” she said.
She was initially hired for a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. time slot, and that has evolved into 12- to 16-hour shifts because she volunteers to take on extra hours, she said. Despite the potential issues due to COVID-19, she took all of the possible precautions for her and her family, including being vaccinated, getting the booster shot, wearing a mask, and, per hospital routine, doing “a lot of hand washing.”
Other than that, it was full speed ahead.
“I just ran into it,” she said. “I can’t deny these people care because of worry about COVID. Every day is humor for me; I do something stupid to make people laugh. We all try to laugh during the day.”
Lloyd is often on the job when patients go into surgery and then later when they are recovering, which makes them ask if she ever goes home. “Yes, when you were sleeping,” she tells them. She hasn’t reconsidered her former employment and encourages others to try the healthcare field if they’re looking for a change. Her co-workers are a team working toward a common goal, she said.
Rochester Regional Health took a major loss of employees after the New York State Department of Health issued a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The mandate went into effect on Sept. 27, 2021. Although “many were granted religious exemptions” initially, those exemptions were overturned and all employees were required to get their first dose by Nov. 22, a Rochester Regional Health spokeswoman said.
As a result, there were approximately 350 employees in the Rochester and St. Lawrence regions “who made the personal choice to decline vaccinations and leave our health system,” the spokeswoman said. “The employees represent approximately 200 full-time equivalents.”
The void left by those workers made for many vacancies and related news stories, which in turn opened a door for Lloyd.
“I actually enjoy the job. I’m constantly learning and doing something new every day,” she said. “It really does make a difference.”
Top photo: Sandy Lloyd of Corfu works in her new job as a clinical nursing assistant at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia. Lloyd is pictured here with her sons Brody, middle, and Bryce. Above, Lloyd works her shift helping outpatients and nurses at UMMC. Photos top and above submitted by Rochester Regional Health, and family photo submitted by Sandy Lloyd.