JWU Student on the Frontlines of COVID-19 in Bermuda

In today’s world, drive-through testing centers and curbside service are the new normal. Even on the small island of Bermuda, where Zyon Robinson '20 lives, clinics are appearing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Johnson & Wales Health Science major never thought she would be working alongside prominent Bermudian doctors and testing patients for the virus.

Zyon Robinson at a testing centerTwo years ago, Robinson arrived at JWU with associate degrees in art and psychology in hand. She enrolled in the Health Science program, knowing it would be one step closer to her future goal of a career in occupational therapy.

Coming from Bermuda, however, JWU wasn’t the obvious choice. “I personally liked Rhode Island because it’s small and I could get around,” Robinson says. “I picked JWU because I’m able to talk directly with each teacher. I would rather have a personal relationship with a professor than be a number.”

When COVID-19 forced colleges and universities around the country to transition to online learning, Robinson returned to her home country of Bermuda, slightly disappointed that her planned internships would be cancelled. However, a new opportunity soon came about thanks to a local doctor and the COVID testing centers popping up in Bermuda. “She needed volunteers in the health industry, and it all happened really fast,” Robinson says. “She and the other doctors trained us in things like taking on and off PPE, because that's really important, and about hand hygiene.” After the introductory training, Robinson and her peers were trained in Coronavirus detection, prevention, and how to perform the nasopharyngeal swab.

Robinson and her colleague were very eager to begin testing, but first, they had to practice. So, with permission, they set to work on the Regiment, which is the armed services for Bermuda. “They were working closely with us so we were able to practice on them before we practiced on the general public,” Robinson says. “From that day on, we just kind of jumped into it.”

Now, Robinson is at the level of qualification to train others on how to perform the tests and is able to work without the direct supervision of a doctor. She works in a drive-through center that is very organized; there is a tent up front where medical volunteers collect patient information. The patients then drive back to another tent, where their information is collected and verified.

Robinson strikes a pose.

“Some people are very nervous, so half of the job is to calm them down,” Robinson says. “That’s what I’ve learned — half of it is just to guide them through it, it’s not all about just performing the swab. You tell them it’s not painful, just breathe, it will be uncomfortable. And then the test takes about 15 seconds.”

The opportunity has been a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Robinson, who aims to go into occupational therapy. To be able to work with well-known doctors on the island and to be mentored is a dream for her. “The other part is to be trusted to help out in this time, it’s really exciting.”

robinson performing a testRobinson’s enthusiasm and work ethic has continued to open doors for her. Because of the close relationships she has developed with doctors and healthcare workers, she is now able to take her talents across the island. “When locals come back to Bermuda, they have to quarantine in a government facility for two weeks before they’re able to go home,” she explains. “So now, three of us and the doctor are able to go into the quarantine facility and we're going to swab a bunch of people there.” Robinson is excited for a new location and a new chance to help more people. “This is leading to other little opportunities, and more will come,” she says. Bermuda recently began antibody testing, in conjunction with the swab testing. Because of her experience, Robinson is able to be a part of this new wave of testing as well.

While she is learning much on the ground during this pandemic, and never envisioned her last year of college to look this way, she is grateful she was able to spend the time she did at JWU. “I enjoyed every class, I enjoyed the teachers that I had,” she says. “It was a very helpful experience, especially thanks to the people in my departments. Rosenthal, Noel and Sammartino were really amazing.”