NEWBURGH – About 50 Mount Saint Mary College Nursing majors are administering COVID-19 vaccinations to doctors, nurses, and other staff at four local hospitals.
The effort has been supervised by Lynette DeBellis, a Mount Nursing instructor and a 1985 alumna of the college. Under the guidance of DeBellis and other healthcare professionals, Mount students have been giving the vaccine to medical staff of three hospitals in the Nuvance Health system since before Christmas.
The students underwent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) training to become certified vaccinators, DeBellis explained.
Student volunteers started giving the vaccine at Vassar Brothers Medical Center on December 21, 2020 and soon were aiding in distribution at both Northern Dutchess Hospital and Putnam Hospital. In January, the students began administering or helping to administer the vaccine to some of the essential workers in the local community.
“It’s a humanitarian effort and part of history,” said DeBellis. “It’s serving the community, and that’s really what nursing is all about. They have been wonderful. I’ve been very, very proud of the Mount students.”
The Mount vaccination efforts have also come to Newburgh: On January 11, Mount students began vaccinating the staff at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall, also under DeBellis’s guidance. Once the St. Luke’s staff has been vaccinated, they hope to move on to members of the local community.
Mount Nursing majors are currently volunteering six days a week to administer the vaccine or help in the process. Plans are in place for Mount Nursing majors to continue this service through at least next month.
Jillian Smith of Massapequa Park, a senior Nursing student at the Mount, volunteered to serve at Vassar Brothers Medical Center and Putnam Hospital. It was an easy decision, she said.
“When I started college, I did not think a pandemic was something I’d have to learn and work through,” Smith noted. “Being a part of [vaccination efforts] now makes me feel 10 times better. This gives me a chance to help our healthcare workers and do something on my part to make it a little easier for them…I’m very happy to be doing this, and seeing what it’s like to work in a hospital during this pandemic.”
In mid-December, Nuvance officials contacted Karidis Tubo, clinical placement coordinator for the Mount’s School of Nursing, about the possibility of utilizing the college’s students for the vaccinations. Mount students have been completing clinical sessions in Nuvance Health hospitals for years and the School of Nursing jumped at the chance to give back. For example, Maureen Brown, the college’s Nursing Compliance Coordinator, “has been very instrumental in ensuring that all of the students’ physicals and CPR cards have been up to date so that they can practice in the hospital,” DeBellis noted.
In less than a week, the Mount students were mobilized and lending their aid to the project.
The students are traveling from near and far to engage in the volunteer work, from as close as Middletown and Newburgh to as far away as Long Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
“I’m very grateful that our students have been so willing to help, even if they have to travel from far away,” DeBellis said. “They’re happy to be a part of this.”
The effort is paying off for the community, DeBellis explained, and it’s also strengthening the Mount students’ nursing ability: “It really helps students not only with their physical skills but also their assessment skills,” said DeBellis.
Smith agreed. She estimates that when she is volunteering, she administers between 40 and 60 shots per day.
“Getting a chance to be in the hospital was such a great opportunity. I got to practice my bedside manner and get more experience giving shots,” Smith explained. “That helped me to become very comfortable with the process, and I’m getting to be a better nurse because of it.”
She added, “Everyone I’ve volunteered with has done an amazing job. They’re going to make great nurses.”