Chester Anderson '16
People define success in so many ways. For Chester Anderson ’16, success is impacting people positively. “If I could do that for the rest of my life, then I would feel like I was successful. Making a positive impact is success.” Since graduating from the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions (ENHP), Anderson, a respiratory therapist, has made a positive impact on many lives, especially during the pandemic. “I don’t come from a health-care background, but my parents emphasized the importance of acts of service—especially my dad, who has worked in Facilities at UHart for the better part of 30 years. He always told me about his experiences and how he’s been able to give back.” Seeing his parents work hard and still find time and energy to come home and do more for others has inspired Anderson. “There is something meaningful in helping people. When I found respiratory therapy, it was perfect.”
Anderson gained valuable career-ready experience while in ENHP’s respiratory therapy program. He was able to follow along on emergency calls and be at the bedside next to physicians in the emergency department and intensive care units. “As a student, your heart is beating so fast because you have barely touched a patient at that point and you’re thrown right in…at first, I was scared but then you find your way as you go through classes, learn more about the equipment, and really learn how to communicate to people.”
After graduating and passing his board exams, Anderson began work at Danbury Hospital. The hiring manager was his former professor, Sue Albino, who encouraged and instilled confidence in him as he started out his role. “I was nervous since this was my first opportunity in the field, but she told me, ‘You can do this, I see it in you. You’re made for this role.’” The team at the hospital mentored Anderson and allowed him to grow and learn in his position. After a year at Danbury Hospital, Anderson started looking for roles closer to his home in Windsor, Conn. He soon accepted a job at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., where he has been working since.
The last two years of Anderson’s career have been like no other. “It's very different from when I started in 2016–17 in terms of the expectations that we have on us. COVID-19 really changed the entire health-care system in general. We went from a certain patient load to two, three, four times that patient load.” Anderson has been with patients suffering from all stages of COVID-19, some in need of critical care.
Being on the frontlines from the beginning of the pandemic, there were more difficult and personal lessons for Anderson. “COVID-19 has taught me a lot about myself. It taught me about isolation. It taught me about really being a team member and it gave me a sense of fortitude.” Some days were harder than others for Anderson, especially in the beginning when it was unclear how the virus was spread and its effects, and he learned how to take care of himself while caring for so many other people. “There have been many times when I went home and I was just sad, you know, for a couple of hours and I had to decompress and compartmentalize my day…Some days are good days. Some days are bad days, but I think one of the most important things that I've learned is to talk to someone. Talk to a friend or family member about what I'm feeling or my experience. I feel like that's more important than trying to disguise what you're feeling.”
Despite the challenges the pandemic has presented, Anderson remains hopeful. “I've seen our staff come together and be there for each other…that gives me hope. We are still fighting this virus, but we find a way to be together. And I think the same is for people in general. We're good at rebounding from tragedy.”
Anderson’s support system in his coworkers, friends, and family has allowed him to persevere throughout the pandemic—especially his parents’ work ethic. Anderson’s mom, Coral Anderson, decided to go back to school once her children got older and she dove right in. Coral graduated from UHart in 2011, completing her bachelor's degree in two and half years. “She finished, and she finished early, which was tough because she had a 20-year school gap as well as trying to learn the changes in technology. It was a challenge, but she accepted it. When I got to school, I said to myself, ‘No matter what I go through, I'm going to try to hit this finish line no matter what it takes.’” It is that resolve that has also helped Anderson throughout his career. He understands and appreciates the work his parents have put in to help him achieve his goals, and wants to pay that forward and help as many people as he can.
Anderson’s advice to current students is, “Take every opportunity. I did club sports and it was amazing just to be a part of the team. You find people from a lot of different states or countries. Taking a different opportunity that you may never have thought you were going to put yourself in opens your mind up to how different people live. We all come together and we share our experiences. I love that the most.”
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