Six students sat taking notes intently as their scrubs-clad teacher walked them through what to do if they noticed their patient was having trouble breathing. They took notes in between quick glances at the images projected on the board.
No one was bothered by the fact that the classroom was only 40% full, but the founder of the Chula Vista-based San Diego Medical College worried it was a bad sign of things to come. Tuba Kazzan said classrooms were filled just a few weeks ago at the college’s Chula Vista, National City, and Miramar campuses. However, Kazan said things changed after California announced it would require all health care workers to be vaccinated by Nov. 30.
“Completely dropped,” she sighed. “Completely dropped.”
Kazan said the empty seats in the classroom were a sharp contrast to what her school saw during the pandemic.
“People were coming out and they’re saying, ‘Hey, I want to know. I want to know the knowledge to provide care and to get jobs.'" she said.
Kazan said San Diego Medical College was the only school permitted to do in-person instruction for certified nursing assistants (CNA) in San Diego Health during the early parts of the pandemic. She said the demand for trained employees increased in 2020 and 2021. Now, Kazan said the demand is even higher as medical staffs are diminished by people quitting or refusing to get vaccinated. She said it hurts her students who will not be able to do their in-person clinical rotations with real patients.
“And if they can’t do that, they cannot be able to take their state exam,” she said. “Agencies are calling and telling me, ‘We need people!’”
The need was echoed by the head of UC San Diego Health Dr. Christopher Longhurst.
“We’re less likely to run out of beds for patients and more likely to run out of staff to care for those patients,” Dr. Longhurst told NBC 7.
“I’m worried,” said Kazan. “I’m really worried because I myself will be getting in for a treatment.”
Kazan has leukemia and will undergo stem cell treatments beginning next week. It could keep her away from her students for upwards of a year. She’s worried her care may not be optimal if health care staffs are not fully stocked.
Kazan said she was torn by California’s mandate. Her students disappeared because they refused to be vaccinated.
“I’m vaccinated myself, but I totally understand,” said Kazan.
She admitted placing most of the blame on the state for requiring the vaccine for health care professionals. Kazan said a good CNA, doctor, or PA shouldn’t be punished for not wanting the vaccine.
“They’re willing to work and there are also people that are vaccinated, and they may not be willing to work,” she explained. “It’s all about patients. It’s all about giving that care.”
Kazan is now worried the empty classroom will have a ripple effect for months, or even years down the road that could impact patient care.
“If we cannot have nurses (doctors, and CNAs), who’s going to be taking care of us?” she asked.