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EKU McNair Scholar Answering the Call to Public Health and Safety - and Serving with a Smile - Even if you Cannot See It!

EKU McNair Scholar Denise Rita Burdine

EKU McNair scholar Rita "Denise" Burdine is on the front line of public health and safety providing essential COVID-19 testing.

Denise, an EKU senior nursing major and McNair scholar, was finishing her online coursework this spring when a Lexington hospital reached out to eligible nursing students to assist during the pandemic. 

Feeling she was not exercising her full potential while remaining safe at home, Denise answered the hospital’s call because, she says, “This is my calling in life.  When people are in need, I am the one who answers the call.”

Denise says it takes about 10 minutes to administer a COVID-19 test.  It is a challenge to maintain an appropriately safe distance while administering the test, but she wears personal protective equipment and maintains safety protocols.

To administer a test, Denise takes a thin cotton swab and inserts it into a person’s nasopharyngeal cavity on one side of the nose for five to ten seconds and then does the same on the other side.  This is similar to flu testing, she says, except the swab must be inserted a bit further.  Denise swabs approximately 50 to 100 people each day.

People taking the test exhibit various reactions.  Denise says most people react normally with a cough or a sneeze and will have watery eyes, and most are grateful for the service provided.  But others not so much. 

Denise says, “Some people wish they never saw me.  The really bad reactions are when someone grabs me or yells an obscenity.  But, thankfully, those are few and far between.”

Because of her skill and pleasant personality, some people who return for a second testing will specifically request her to administer their test.

But no matter what she faces during a trying day of testing, Denise says it is all fine with her.  She says, “I’ll always be here to serve with a smile.  Even if my mask covers it, my smile is still underneath.”

Published on June 22, 2020

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