WENATCHEE — Jan Kaiser has been the director of Wenatchee Valley College’s medical assistant program for more than 20 years.

Teaching the next generation of health care professionals is often a challenging and rewarding job.

But during a global pandemic, adapt and overcome became the new normal for the program’s class of 2020.

Like most other students across the country, they transitioned to remote learning last spring. Many had kids of their own who were also learning from home.

During that time, Kaiser had to get creative to allow her students hands-on medical practice.

“I couldn’t send needles home because what if their kids got into them and got hurt? So I had to cut the needles off all the syringes,” she said. “Then, we sent the syringes home so they could at least practice the art of drawing up medication and pretend you’re giving it. It was crazy but it’s what we had to do.”

When her students were able to return to WVC’s campus for some in-person, Kaiser’s creativity resurfaced in the form of pool noodles. When held out at arm’s length, the 5-foot foam noodles offered a visual representation of the social distance students need to maintain — and offered a dose of levity.

In-person instruction brought symptom screening and hours wearing full personal protective equipment.

“Like I tell them, this is part of health care and they’re getting thrust into it. If they can handle this, they can handle just about everything out there," Kaiser said during a lab time with the students. 

It hit home for Kaiser too, she said.

“I’m 60 and I get nervous about it because I’m at the age now where I could potentially be at risk,” Kaiser said. “You do the best you can, you wear your mask, you wash your hands, you wear gloves if you need to and that’s all you can do.”

But the class of 2020 — and Kaiser — persisted through a year of unknowns.

"It really has taken a lot on the students’ part,” Kaiser said. “And bless their hearts because if they hadn’t stuck with us, they could have gotten frustrated and just quit. But they’ve hung in there and they’ve made it work — and we’ve made it work.”

Reilly Kneedler: 661-5213

kneedler@wenatcheeworld.com or

on Twitter @reillykneedler