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Capitol Conversations: Romeela Narjis - Small Acts, Big Impacts

By Saba Mann | December 12, 2021

Romeela Narjis is a Patient Care Associate (PCA) at Albany Medical Center. She works closely with surgical patients in the pre-operative unit, preparing them for surgery and working to discharge them afterwards. She covers nurse aide duties and is under the supervision of nurses. Narjis is also working to pursue an M.D.

When I started working there, the variants were going on, and almost half of the hospital staff tested positive. We had patients in our unit with it too. We didn’t have direct contact but it was scary. But I never wanted to quit, I was vaccinated, and we followed all the precautionary measures, we had our N95 masks, so I never thought of leaving.

I studied biology and wanted to go to med school but I wanted to see first if I could do it. So that’s why I wanted to go in and have direct contact with those patients so I can see if I actually like this job because if I don’t like that part you know I could never be a doctor.

In the morning we have patients that come in for surgeries and we get them ready. You just put IV’s in. I take their vitals and I get them settled on the bed. If they need anything, like getting to the bathroom, we take care of that. And in the afternoon the scheduled surgeries start coming out, we do what’s called a post-op, and that’s when you get them ready to leave our unit. When they come out we offer them food and drink, get them dressed, if they want to walk, make sure they can walk alright.

It was way better than I expected. I was kind of scared to go in and work in a hospital setting for the first time. I was expecting patients to be rude but it was totally the opposite. It’s been eight months I have not had a single racist encounter. No racism at all, never. Even sometimes they’re rude to the nurses but they’re always nice to us. That was like a whole new experience because where I worked before in customer service and that was like a bad experience 24/7. Here, I love my patients. They’re so nice.

There’s this stigma that doctors don’t talk to anybody, they just come see their patients and they go away, and that they’re rude. I did encounter some rude doctors but at the same time, I met some of the best doctors too. And they literally make you feel like you're their friends.

Everyday you have so many different experiences, and new people every day.

The fact that I’m helping them and the smiles and their thank yous, that just makes my day. Especially when, I think that we do so little for them but they’re so grateful. They’re always saying you guys are so fast, we are so happy you took care of us so that makes me happy, I feel like I’m actually helping people, even though I’m not, I feel like I am. And that’s what I want to do in the future too.

There was a guy that had surgery, somewhere in the rectal area and we have to make sure they can urinate, because of anesthesia, they’re all numb, so they can’t leave before we can make sure they can go to the bathroom. Normally I know there’s a mindset, like whatever you tell people, if you make them repeat it and convince them that they can do it, then they can.

I try to go in with a positive mindset, and tell them you can do it. And this patient was there for four hours. I was helping other patients and once I saw him, I asked him if he drank a lot of water and he was like, “Yes I drank a lot of water.”

He drank four bottles and still wasn’t able to go. I gave him a bowl with ice to dip his fingers because sometimes it helps. He did that and after 15 minutes, it was time for a bladder scan and he was very sad because it had been five hours and he was all dressed up and ready to go home but he couldn’t because he wasn’t able to urinate.

When I did his scan, I made sure to put some pressure around the area and he said, “You’re putting force, and now I can feel” and I said, “That’s good, you should be able to go.”

After 10 minutes I came back he shouted at me and he said, “I was able to go!” He was so excited, he literally told everybody my name, said she’s awesome, did not give up, she offered me popsicle, coffee, water, everything and he was asking the nurse for my name - I’m going to give her a shoutout. He was so grateful, but I didn’t do anything exceptional, I did what I was trained to do.

There was one guy that was really aggressive because he didn’t know what was done to him, which makes sense because if you don’t know what surgery you had got, you would be mad. When I went into the room he said he didn’t want to talk to anyone and just wanted to go home. I tried to calm him down, and took his blood pressure and it was really high. It was 180/160 and I was scared but I kept talking to him.

He said they did a procedure and I don’t know what they did to my body. And I told him in this unit we will make sure we get you anything and everything you want. I kept talking to him, he just needed somebody to vent to.

I was in his room for more than 30 minutes, we were talking and he said that everyone is bad. I said you just haven’t met the good people yet. And he said there’s no good people on Earth and he was like I don’t have any friends and I was I don’t have any friends too but I still believe there are good people, you just haven’t met the good people.

He just wanted somebody to listen to him. And we talked and finally calmed down, and I said you just made a new friend, I’m your friend and he was like no I don’t have any friends. I made sure the nurse called the doctor and he talked to the patient, and he calmed down.

He was okay afterwards, his blood pressure went down. And when he was leaving I was like okay you’re not even going to say bye to me now and then he smiled and said bye. So that made me happy, because most of the time patients just want to be heard. I think if you become a doctor that’s a good thing but at the same time, you should be trained at the lower level to see what actually happens outside too.

When I'm the only one in the unit then you have to take care of like 20 patients at once and they're just running back and forth and you're in the hallway and 10 nurses are calling your name. That's very frustrating but at the same time I just say yes to everybody and say I'll do it, because I don't want to disappoint them. And they know I'm trying my best and sometimes they notice and most of the time they tell me you're working really hard and I'm sweating and I'm running back and forth a lot.

There have been days where I’ve been really frustrated, and this is getting out of hand but that time we had staff shortages, and I was the only one in the unit. One time I had 30,000 steps in an 8 hour shift. But after a few days we got new people and it’s better now.

I just love my patients. The more I understand the better it will be for my future career. Right now where we work, it’s behind doctors, and they don't know what’s happening. If I start from here, and I know what the patients and the nurses are feeling, then when I go behind those bars and into the OR (operating room), I will know what’s happening in the pre-op area, and once a patient gets discharged from the OR.

Most of the time, we call the doctors and they don’t respond, or they don’t want to come down. We had one patient who waited in the unit for 8 hours and her surgery got canceled. No one came down to say a single sorry to her. I was so mad, I wanted to call in place of her to Patient Relations and tell them. There’s another doctor, everytime he has a patient, he comes down every two hours to make sure they’re okay.

When people are sick, they just want kindness around them, and somebody to take care of them. I think you just need to listen to people, ask if they need anything, just console them, that’s it. When you're sick you just don't like anything in the world. Sometimes I see nurses and they just get mad and I know sometimes patients are wrong too but at the same time they're sick, so you just have to treat them like babies, that's all.


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