The School of Nursing has answered the call to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Montclair State nursing students and staff are working at one of Essex County’s large-scale immunization centers and are helping register and educate members of the community.
Associate Professor Courtney Reinisch is coordinating the School of Nursing’s response, adding COVID-19 hours into the senior practicum. “In order to return to our lives, we need to get the global population inoculated,” Reinisch says. “I thought this was a great opportunity for students and faculty to respond locally and give back to the community.”
Among the nursing students is Theresa Migliaccio, a mother of five who balances family life with her classwork and weekend hours as a registered nurse at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. Juggling it all during the pandemic has been difficult, she admits. “You definitely learn your resilience and your limitations.”
But taking on even more at the vaccination clinic has actually eased her stress. “It’s made the pandemic not as devastating because at least I feel I’m doing something to help.”
On a recent shift at the Essex County immunization center in West Orange, New Jersey, Migliaccio was teamed with Mark Rodrigues – both are RNs set to graduate this spring from Montclair State’s RN to BSN program. As they prepared their vaccination room, they precisely readied syringes, making sure not to waste a single drop of the vaccine.
Throughout the country, inoculating people has been hampered by vaccine shortages and a complicated registration process, but Essex County’s response has been a bright spot in the rollout. Inside the former Kmart store in West Orange, any thoughts of the challenges people may have had getting their appointment are forgotten as they receive their shots of hope, Migliaccio says. “They cry, they’re overwhelmed and they’re so thankful.”
Rodrigues, who worked as an electrician before a career change to nursing, says this process has taken him out of his pandemic comfort zone. “Occasionally you go out for your shopping, but everything is so methodical about how you spend your time outside,” he says.
At the vaccination center, Rodrigues has a system for the way he sets up equipment, organizing Band-Aids and alcohol wipes in groups of 10 to match the number of doses in each vial. “We want to be prepared so we can more fluidly deal with patients,” he says. Rodrigues has a gentle rapport to ease any anxiety people may be feeling. Often, they haven’t even realized they’ve been given the injection.
The coordinated efforts pay off as the classmates inoculated more than 100 people on their shift, about 10% of all the Moderna doses given that day. “It’s exceptionally rewarding,” Rodrigues says, “knowing we are putting people on track for getting back some sort of normalcy.”
Their experience illustrates how Montclair State’s nursing faculty and students are engaged in the campaign to inoculate against the virus. Essex County has five vaccination sites spread across the county and the School of Nursing is joining in the effort to vaccinate citizens by participating in a variety of roles.
Faculty members and students are also assisting senior citizens with vaccination registration at a senior apartment setting. When the on-site clinic opened, undergraduates assisted with temperature checks, social distancing and monitoring. Associate Professor Marybeth Duffy, who participated in this outreach, helped register community members for appointments and answered questions about the safety of the vaccines. “They need reassurance that taking the shot would be better than not,” she says.
The School of Nursing is continuously looking for ways to serve the community and plans to help vaccinate homebound residents in partnership with the West Orange Health Department. This faculty-undergraduate effort will include students assisting with making calls to individuals, registering and scheduling them for appointments and going to their homes.
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehran