Texas Border Business
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The COVID-19 pandemic and its medical demands brought on a shortage of medical professionals, including diagnostic medical sonographers like Texas Southmost College graduate Audrie Villarreal.
The Brownsville native was getting ready to graduate with her associate degree from TSC’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program when the pandemic hit in March and quarantine went into effect.
During that time, she was completing her clinical rotation as a student at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville, when she was asked to apply as a full-time employee.
“I knew there was a nationwide shortage,” said the 21-year old. “And I was ready to work even though times were uncertain and I knew the risk that lay ahead.”
It was a challenging transition and training period for the TSC graduate, as she made her changeover from student to diagnostic medical sonographer at Valley Baptist Medical Center.
“We started out with one to two COVID patients a day, but then the spike hit,” said Villarreal. “Every patient we saw at that point was COVID positive and I realized the severity of this unknown virus and I knew I had to take extra precautions at home too.”
For Villarreal, who lives with her parents, brother and grandmother, this meant changing in the garage, showering immediately and keeping her distance.
“My biggest fear was that I would bring the virus home and infect the ones I love the most,” she said. “Up to now we’ve all stayed healthy and I have Valley Baptist and TSC to thank for that.”
Villarreal said the hospital has handled the COVID-19 situation well and has made a priority of keeping all of their employees safe with all the proper personal protective equipment.
She added that the training she received at TSC also played an important role in the way she safely approaches her job and patients.
“From the beginning of the program, our patient care and safety standards are set high,” she said. “The program is structured to teach us all of the basics that help us build a great foundation.”
Although Villarreal’s journey as a diagnostic medical sonographer is just beginning, she is already looking ahead and taking it upon herself to continue learning and growing professionally by earning additional registries, such as abdomen sonography and obstetrics and gynecology sonography.
In the near future, she hopes to become a registered vascular technician and continue her education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
“I started my career at a very young age and even though COVID-19 has made it challenging, I’m still very grateful for the opportunities I have been given,” she said. “I feel like time is on my side and I have the whole world in front of me. TSC has given me a path to follow and I don’t know where I would be without it.”
Registration for Spring 2021 began Oct. 15.