On the Front Lines: Kinesiology Alumni

May 19, 2021
Stock Image: bottom half of masked face over dark background

The COVID-19 pandemic affects our health, well-being and nearly every aspect of our lives—but for some more than others. Those working in healthcare, including many Kinesiology graduates, continue to face precarious situations to care for others. (Read more COVID-19 stories: Meet the COVID Crew | Mini-MOOC, Massive Results)


Traveling intensive care unit nurse, Scottsdale, Ariz.
B.S. ’17

In what ways has your work been affected by COVID-19?

Wow. Well, it has been quite affected! I was working at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich. for the last year. But in January 2021, I decided to become a travel nurse because of the pandemic and signed a crisis contract. The hospital where I currently work is trying to function way beyond capacity. We have been creating makeshift intensive care units (ICUs) in areas of the hospital that were never meant to be ICUs. A typical day involves me trying to care for 2-3 very sick patients (most who have COVID-19). Since there is not enough staff to care for all the patients, best practices are very unfortunately not always possible. I try my absolute hardest to give the best care to my patients, but I am also part of a team. If other nurses need help in an emergency, I am there to help. This is what functioning in a “crisis” surge is like. Everyone is trying to navigate through all this chaos and help save people’s lives.

How do you stay positive? 

It’s been hard on me in every way. My job is quite mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. I don’t think many people know what goes into caring for critically ill patients. But at the end of the day, I reflect on my day with coworkers and leave my work at work. I go home and try to live my life and stay healthy so that I can be the best support system for my patients that I can be.

What is the scariest thing that happened and how did you handle it? 

I’ve had many scary situations but generally, the scariest is when someone in the ICU is in medical danger. I stay calm and ask for help so that I can make changes to improve the patient’s health with the guidance of a provider. But specifically, one patient comes to mind. He was being ruled out for COVID and while I was taking care of him, his heart stopped while going to the restroom. We resuscitated him on the floor. It was one of the craziest things that has happened to me as a nurse.

Why do you do this job? 

I do this job because it is fulfilling. I had a previous career at a healthcare business company in Chicago, but my goal was to always be at the bedside. So I went back to school after my time at Michigan State and got another bachelor’s degree in nursing. Nursing is a difficult career, but it is so satisfying to me that I have a job where I feel proud of what I do every day.

How does kinesiology relate to nursing?

My Kinesiology degree has allowed me to be more aware of people’s overall physical well-being. Not only do the medications I give patients help, but moving them and feeding them adequately helps them overcome illness. So even though my patients are often in critical condition, repositioning them in bed or getting physical therapy involved goes such a long way in a patient’s recovery process. It’s crucial to always keep patients moving.


Cardiac sonographer, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mass.
B.S. ’17

What has changed in your workplace since the pandemic started?

Once COVID-19 hit our area, the hospital gradually started to shut down, transitioned most appointments to virtual and canceled all elective procedures. What is normally a world-renowned hospital turned into one of the largest COVID response institutions in Massachusetts. Our workflow dropped dramatically from doing routine echocardiograms, to only the patients that were critically ill. My job turned into working every other day for three months as an attempt to limit our potential exposure to the virus. However, the demand for echoes became increasingly needed as we learned how COVID affected our patients. As our department realized this virus was not going away any time soon, we adapted our processes to limit our exposure when caring for our patients. Toward the end of 2020, our workflow returned to a more “normal” state and we continue to utilize these adapted protocols to keep everyone safe.

What worried you the most? 

I was definitely nervous about exposing my immediate family, along with my girlfriend and her family. Mass General was admitting most transfers who had COVID from outside hospitals, which put my coworkers and I at the forefront. Being a cardiac sonographer, it is our duty to go into a patient’s room to evaluate them for upwards of an hour at a time. With so many unknowns, I was unsure if the personal protective equipment (PPE) I wore was actually going to be enough to protect me. Or if I would be unknowingly exposed at work and bring it home to my loved ones. I was in a state of anxiety every time I had to go interact with a patient with COVID, questioning if this was the time I finally would get it. Handling this mentality took a long time to conquer. I remember fit testing my N95 mask 3-4 times before entering a room to make sure I had a good seal. 

Why did you choose your specialty area? 

Everyone in America will at some point develop some form of heart disease. I am proud to be part of providing a non-invasive service that can answer so many questions about one’s health. 

What does being a Spartan mean to you, especially now?   

Through my courses and an internship experience at Spartan Performance, my Kinesiology degree provided me with the knowledge of how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle and how to promote that lifestyle to others. Michigan State taught us how to be bold and to do what others don’t. With a Spartans Will mentality, I am proud to do my part in being a health care worker and work to get back to a new normal. Go Green!

Matt Green

Physician assistant, Bronson Urgent Care, Battle Creek, Mich.
B.S. ’00, M.S. ’03

What is it like working in urgent care during this pandemic?

Before COVID-19, my practice was extremely busy. We treated patients for injuries, illnesses and even performed physical exams for student-athletes. After the stay-at-home order was placed, the patient volume significantly decreased. People were afraid of entering health care institutions because of the fear of contracting the coronavirus. The decrease was so severe that it forced the hospital system to furlough or half furlough many of their employees. As restrictions were slowly lifted, along with having a better understanding and testing of the virus, the volume is steadily increasing. However, it is nowhere near the volume we once saw.

How has COVID changed the way you get ready for work? 

The moment I arrive, I immediately put on my personal protective equipment, including a face shield and N95 mask. For my patients that exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID, I also put on a protective gown. This goes on for the entire work day and has proved to be rather exhausting. When I arrive at home, I immediately get out of my scrubs, throw them in the wash, and take a shower. I am significantly more conscientious about the possibility of spreading COVID or whatever else I came in contact with to my friends and family. I’ve taken multiple COVID tests to make sure I wasn’t infected before meeting with someone or a small gathering of people, knowing that I was exposed almost on a daily basis.

When did you realize how serious this virus is? 

In the early fall, I treated an elderly couple that was demonstrating mild symptoms of COVID after going out to a dine-in restaurant. I had treated this couple in the past for various reasons and knew them well. After their COVID tests came back positive, and following hospital protocol, I instructed them to treat the symptoms at home and seek care immediately if the symptoms worsened. Exactly two weeks later, I was notified that the couple passed away within minutes of each other in the hospital. I already knew the severity of the virus; however, this validated it for me on a personal level. After reflecting on this couple and dealing with the heartbreak of their passing, it just reinforced the scariest part of COVID-19. It is so unpredictable and potentially deadly. 

How have your degrees from the MSU Department of Kinesiology influenced your career? 

The Kinesiology Department provided the academic rigor that enabled me to approach science more seriously, and became a springboard to graduate school. Equally as important, I was surrounded by other highly talented and ambitious students. These students, many of whom have become close friends, along with the professors, graduate assistants and other faculty, gave me the confidence, inspiration and the drive to do more and be more in my chosen profession.


Physician assistant, Michigan Orthopedic Center, Lansing, Mich.
B.S. ’12

Why did you choose your career path?

I do this job because I love the science and the art of medicine. Working in medicine, especially in orthopedic surgery, provides me with a unique ability to improve the quality of life of my patients.

How did you and your family react when the virus started? 

The first few months of the pandemic, I was worried and anxious most of the time. I was worried about going to work and being exposed to COVID, and I was even more worried about bringing it back home to my husband and daughter. We did not see our parents or grandparents for many, many weeks out of fear, anxiety and the desire to keep them safe. Almost a year into this pandemic, my husband and I feel much more comfortable managing my exposure as well as the exposure to our family. I still wear a mask any time I see our grandparents, even if we visit with them outside. 

Have you had any close calls? 

I have been tested for COVID a few times due to exposure or mild symptoms. All my tests have been negative, thank goodness! My daughter had a COVID exposure at daycare and had to be tested as well as quarantined at home for two weeks. That was probably the most nerve-wracking waiting period of the pandemic thus far. 

How did MSU help prepare you to handle new challenges? 

My MSU degree afforded me the opportunity to attend a well-known graduate school, Midwestern University, and obtain my master’s degree in physician assistant studies. I use my kinesiology background on a daily basis working in orthopedic surgery. My background as a collegiate diver as well as a kinesiology student prepared me to have my time, energy and focus pulled in several directions at once. I feel well equipped to handle stressful situations and manage my time appropriately having completed a rigorous course schedule while also competing for the NCAA.