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Nursing students administering COVID-19 vaccine in community

February 22, 2021

Almost 200 Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students from the University of North Georgia (UNG) are administering the COVID-19 vaccine to surrounding communities.

Nina Myer has worked hard to ensure her students get as much clinical experience as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. It hasn't always been easy. So when local public health departments reached out to Dr. Sharon Chalmers, department head of nursing, to see if the BSN students could help administer the COVID-19 vaccine, Myer didn't hesitate when Chalmers asked her to spearhead the effort.

"This was music to my ears," the UNG lecturer of nursing said.

As they began mobilizing into White, Lumpkin, Union and Dawson counties, the UNG nursing students' efforts to assist the community have been welcomed. Lynden Huffman, a senior from Gainesville, Georgia, pursuing a BSN, said a woman in Dawson County told her receiving the vaccine felt "like Christmas morning."

"That made the whole day worth it," Huffman said.

Students in Myer's class and senior lecturer Milka Andjelkovic's class are assisting local public health departments in the northeast Georgia region, and students in Hannah Cilli's class are working with WellStar Health System.

Each student in Myer's population health class is scheduled for two days of vaccine administration; this allows all 83 seniors in her class to rotate through the different health departments, help as much as possible, and get the valuable clinical experiences they need.

Kaley Pitts, a senior from Buford, Georgia, pursuing a BSN, assisted with vaccines in Lumpkin County. She is thankful for Myer's diligence to provide students a chance to help.

"As someone who has that passion and calling to take care of people, being a student during the pandemic has been hard," Pitts said. "My heart has wanted to be in the hospital helping people. Being able to give vaccines, it felt like I was able to do my part. I was very thankful."

When Myer heard that the National Council of State Boards of Nursing implemented a national call to action for nursing students to assist in the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccines, she was proud that UNG was already engaged in the effort. 

COVID-19 has created new challenges for nurses who are on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. For Huffman, that only increases her urgency to join the field.

"This pandemic has made my desire to be a nurse even greater," Huffman said. "It gives me an opportunity to help in more ways than I thought possible."

Myer and Cilli, who each earned a master's degree in nursing education from UNG, are now helping their students gain valuable experience. Cilli is grateful to see the all-hands-on-deck approach to battling COVID-19.

"We need people to be able to give vaccines. We're trying to get as many people in the community who are vulnerable vaccinated as quickly as possible," Cilli said. "Our students immediately jumped on the opportunity to serve their community. People want to help, and people want to beat this thing."

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