As evidenced throughout the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our nation’s landscape, but through it all, one thing has remained certain – leaders in health and human services are needed now more than ever. This week in our new three-part series, Profiles of Courage: CHHS Alumni on the Frontlines, we’ll recognize some of our alumni. From healthcare workers to social service advocates to educators, each are making a bold difference in their communities. It is our honor to share their stories of courage.

Alumni - PattyOlino (sm) 1Patty Olino
ICU Registered Nurse
B.S., School of Nursing (2017)

For many healthcare workers who go into the nursing profession, it’s an opportunity to change lives. For Patty Olino, her purpose runs deeper – through generations, in fact. Her mother, a retired nurse, served in the profession for nearly 40 years. Her older sister is also a nurse in the same Central Valley hospital that Olino works at. Nursing is deep in their blood – and the love Olino has for it is evident when she speaks. As the COVID-19 situation intensified in the Valley, Olino made the difficult decision to move out of the home she shared with her mother in an effort to self-isolate. Her profession needed her and in turn, she needed to make sure her loved ones were safe. It’s just one of many sacrifices Olino, and thousands of healthcare workers like her, have made all over the world. 

Patty has seen the unit she works in become a dedicated COVID-19 ICU floor, in just a matter of days. As the projected peak of the virus looms on the horizon, Patty is sticking to what she does best – remain hopeful. After all, helping others is in her bloodline and it’s something she will continue to do with more passion than ever. She says helping others is a privilege she does not take for granted – especially during these uncertain times.

How the can the public support healthcare workers like yourself?
I know it sounds really simple, but I think it’s important for people to just show appreciation for what they have and to follow the CDC recommendations to stay home, and don’t go out unless absolutely necessary. Every day that you walk out those doors is a risk. We as healthcare professionals can manage the influx of patients, but we need the public to do their part and just be diligent when out in public – and just have more awareness that everything you do affects not only yourself, but those around you.

How do you stay positive and hopeful in these times?
As a nurse, this is what we are called to do and even though it can be unsettling at times, I recognize that there’s beauty in being able to support patients during this time, many who are separated from their families. To be able to ease their suffering is humbling, and I remain hopeful that someday – with resolve, strength and resilience – we’ll all see the other end of this together. On a personal level, I’ve learned to just be appreciative of the simpler things in life, like my health and my family. These are things I’m so grateful to have.

What does a shift in the COVID-19 unit look like?

Alumni - PattyOlino (sm) 5aSo much of our work in the critical care unit is the same, but also very different at the same time. Because the virus is airborne, we have to take extra precautions before even entering the hospital. When our ICU floor expanded to the dedicated COVID-19 unit, we got into a routine of putting on personal protective gear, which are resources I’m so grateful for. 

On any given day, we have two patients. Our COVID-19 patient population was initially isolated into three rooms and then eight rooms and then became a whole floor. Each day it’s expanding to able to accommodate these patients and isolate them from the usual patient population. It’s interesting in a sense that our work in the critical care population hasn’t deviated much because we still try to deliver the same care, but we just have to be considerably more diligent about what we’re touching every time we come in and out of the patient’s room. 

What do you enjoy most about being a nurse?
Being a nurse gives me such a sense of purpose. It’s incredible to know that every day you are effectively changing the course of people’s lives – and that in itself, is very humbling. We have patients who are the sickest you could imagine, on ventilators and life support, and to see them a week or two later talking and healthy is such a surreal experience. Being a nurse is not just about saving lives – it’s about wanting to appreciate life as a whole.

How did your education at Fresno State help you?
I don’t know if anything could have ever truly prepared me for a situation like this, but I am positive that the nursing program at Fresno State has prepared me to be the best nurse I can be. In nursing school, we go through clinicals and learn nursing skills, but there’s definitely no guidelines on how to approach something like this, so it’s definitely been a learning process, and not something we could have ever prepared for. 

Being able to serve the Fresno community is such a privilege. This city has such a special place in my heart and so much of that, I attribute to my time at Fresno State.

Alumni - PattyOlino (sm) 3
Olino graduated with her B.S. in nursing in 2017, and comes from a proud family of nurses and healthcare workers.

Alumni - PattyOlino (sm) 2

Dr. Timothy P. White Alumni -Timothy White (sm)
Chancellor, The California State University

B.A., Kinesiology -Physical Education (1970)

After eight years leading the California State University (CSU) system, Chancellor Dr. Timothy White was all set to retire this coming July. But as news of COVID-19 began to spread around the nation and to the state, White made the important decision to put his retirement on hold and will now continue to lead the CSU well into the fall 2020 semester. 

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education at Fresno State in 1970, White led a successful career in the field before pursuing administrative positions in higher education. Since 2012, he has led more than 482,000 students and 53,000 employees across 23 CSU campuses.

As the largest four-year higher education system in the country, Dr. White’s leadership during this unique time has been monumental – and his compassion for the students, faculty and staff he serves remains his top commitment in the months to come.

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