The Shift from Surgical Technology to COVID Care at Mount Sinai Hospital Confirms Berkeley College Graduate Teresa Patino’s Calling to Help Others

“We took a lot of great care … We treated each patient fairly and with love.”– Teresa Patino, CST

Teresa Patino, CST, Berkeley College Class of 2019, began her position as a Certified Surgical Technologist at the main campus of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City nearly a year ago, in late June. When the coronavirus erupted, Patino made the shift from assisting with elective surgeries in the operating room (OR), to leading a 13-member proning team responsible for caring for patients on ventilators and helping them breathe better by reducing the fluid build-up in their lungs.

Patino recalled how a 26-year-old woman in the care of her team, who had been sedated with tubes in her mouth, began to recover and regained consciousness. “After three weeks of being ventilated, this young woman was able to communicate with us by writing on a white board … We still visited her. That is how I know I am making a difference.”

The proning process entails following doctors’ orders to rotate sedated COVID-19 patients who are on ventilators from their backsides, to a belly position, to help relieve the flow of liquid caused by the virus and that accumulates in the lungs. It was a procedure that could be utilized over the course of several weeks and was first used in Italy. Patino led one of six proning teams.

“It takes five people. Nurses could not do this by themselves,” Patino explained. “Each person on the team has a specific purpose. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or Respiratory Therapist has to hold the patient’s head with the tubes.”

On the busiest of days (and nights, the protocol for the proning teams allowed patients to be on their bellies for 16 hours and on their backs for eight hours a day, with more frequent head turning included) each team performed these protocols for about 30 patients. Additional professionals from other states helped their efforts. The proning teams were trained at the end of March, a few days before starting this work at the beginning of April. Since then the demand has slowed, and in mid-May, Patino returned to her regular assignments in the OR.

“I am caring for patients and helping by improving their chances of surviving by 12%. We would do the treatment for a week. Then they wouldn’t need it (the treatment) because the patients were able to recover,” Patino said.

Patino noted that not everyone recovered. A lot of the patients were very sick and went to palliative care.

Through this experience, Patino said she made friends throughout Mount Sinai in other departments. “I will never forget … people in Ultrasound, the CRNAs, all those who took time out of their lives, coming from other places and helping us,” she said.

Patino successfully completed the 5-month training track required of new graduates hired at Mount Sinai. In the training she learned more specifically how she would become part of the teams that performed general surgery, gynecological and vascular surgeries, liver and kidney transplants, plastics and cancer-related breast surgeries, and robotic surgery in urology.

As soon as the pandemic started, no one was working in the operating rooms any longer, said Patino, except for those performing emergency surgeries.

“We were all unsure what would happen, what we would do,” Patino said. “Since we started receiving COVID patients, everyone went to different departments – ICUs (Intensive Care Units), the Emergency Department, and Materials Management to open up the PPE needed.”  Another group became the Proning Team.

“What makes me proud is how we all work so hard and care about each patient so much, and how much attention we paid to detail,” added Patino. “We provided mouth care, helped with wound protection to prevent sores and breaks on skin. It was the special attention we paid, the attention to details that our team had. One might suggest cream, give it some air, tell the nurse what we did. If one of my co-workers saw a patient’s hair was messy, she would offer to put her hair up, make them feel human. We took a lot of great care. Just because you have COVID does not matter. We would go into every room. We treated each patient fairly and with love.”

Read More about Berkeley College Efforts to Fight COVID-19

Berkeley College is responding to community needs during the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis, both as healthcare workers in the trenches and by donating vital supplies to area hospitals and emergency management efforts.

In April, Berkeley College, donated more than 50,000 medical supplies from its School of Health Studies toward emergency response efforts to fight COVID-19. Berkeley College faculty, students and alumni are currently serving on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, at medical centers including New York-Presbyterian Hospital; Mount Sinai Health System; Columbia University Irving Medical Center and others. Click here to read a story about Surgical Technology graduate Niurka Pelaez, CST, a member of the healthcare team at Hackensack University Medical Center. Click here to read a story about Nicole Decarmine, who provides compassionate after-life care as a mortuary technician at Queens Hospital Center.

About Berkeley College
Berkeley College, founded in 1931, is a career-focused institution accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that offers students Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs in more than 20 career fields. The College has campuses in Midtown Manhattan and White Plains, NY, as well as in Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park, NJ, with more than 5,700 students enrolled. In addition, Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, for seven consecutive years. The website address is

The mission of Berkeley College is to empower students to achieve lifelong success in dynamic careers.