University partnership supports Nuvance Health and Danbury public health programs
Nursing students and faculty from Western Connecticut State University have joined the vaccination campaign this winter to arrest the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic by offering their support to the launch of vaccine administration programs organized by the Nuvance Health system and the Danbury Department of Public Health and Human Services.
The WCSU Department of Nursing responded swiftly to appeals from Nuvance and Danbury Public Health administrators for volunteer support as the organizations ramped up their programs to administer Covid 19 vaccinations to health care workers and other first responders, as well as to provide public education and follow-up services. Nursing Department Chair Dr. Jeanette Lupinacci said WCSU students have volunteered since December at four Nuvance locations including Danbury, Norwalk, New Milford and Sharon hospitals. Department faculty and students in the university’s RN-BN and M.S. in Nursing programs also responded enthusiastically to a call from Danbury Public Health authorities for support in the city’s vaccination effort.
Lupinacci observed that WCSU nursing students’ responsibilities have included administering vaccinations with professional supervision, provided at Nuvance clinics by WCSU adjunct faculty members employed at the system hospitals. Student volunteers also have performed essential support roles such as checking in individuals for their vaccination appointments, monitoring for allergic reactions immediately after vaccination, and providing information about follow-up protocols.
Lupinacci remarked the Nursing Department has welcomed the opportunity to provide much-needed clinical experience for its students while collaborating with community partners to ensure the successful launch of the Covid 19 vaccination effort in western Connecticut.
“With the decrease in clinical placement opportunities during the pandemic over the past year, we have been most happy to have our students participate in these programs and gain such valuable experience in the field,” she said. “Their work at the Nuvance and Danbury clinics has helped our students to fine-tune their skills in interpersonal communication, teaching, assessment and evaluation, and they are gaining an invaluable lesson in the mechanics of administering a vaccination with supervision.”
For Janelle Kennedy, a B.S. in Nursing student from Brewster, New York, her volunteer service averaging more than 20 hours a week in vaccination clinics at Danbury, New Milford and Sharon hospitals has drawn powerful inspiration from the experiences of her mother as an intensive care unit nursing director and her father as a respiratory therapist on the front line since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic. Working part-time as a patient care technician during the pandemic, Kennedy also had witnessed the heartbreak of the pandemic first-hand.
“I was able to witness the dystopian reality in the hospital and to see the pandemic’s effect on my parents, who worked tirelessly for months on end,” she said. “My mom would sometimes work 15 hours a day to help support her nursing staff. For several days during the week, I was with patients holding their hand as their family FaceTimed to say their good-byes.”
At the Nuvance clinics, Kennedy has had the opportunity to administer hundreds of doses of the vaccine as well as to assist in organizing intakes, collecting registration forms, educating patients and monitoring them for potential side effects. “We are perfecting skills that are essential to the nursing practice like education, patient-to-nurse communication and the technical experience of administering an intramuscular injection,” she noted. “It is beneficial to our education to have these hands-on experiences as we will be entering the field in just a few months, and the world needs competent, well-prepared nurses more than ever.”
“As a student, I am passionate about bringing the Covid 19 pandemic to a close and getting the community vaccinated,” she remarked. During the past year, “I have witnessed some deeply traumatic things, and I would like to make sure that no one ever needs to go through this again in their life.” She plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps by seeking a position in hospital critical care after graduation.
Kariny Ramos, a lifelong Danbury resident who expects to receive her B.S. in Nursing this spring, has worked in a senior living facility in Danbury since the start of the pandemic and experienced its impact on patients and families first-hand. “I saw how quickly this virus can take a life away and how much fear, loneliness and grief it can cause,” she said. “There was a time when I was scared to fall asleep because I thought I wouldn’t wake up the next day. I believe every life is precious, and I don’t want more lives to get taken away by this virus.”
Ramos has volunteered since the start of winter break at vaccination clinics in Danbury and New Milford hospitals and plans to continue when not in class or at work during the spring term. “Participating in the first release of the vaccines will be a moment that I will never forget,” she said. “I will be graduating in the midst of the pandemic, and the knowledge that I have gained from this opportunity will benefit my career as a nurse by preparing me to educate my future patients about the Covid 19 vaccine.” Her goal is to pursue her R.N. career in service to her native Danbury community.
“I was eager to be part of this vaccination program because I feel like I am helping the public to end the pandemic,” Ramos remarked. “It’s beautiful to watch so many people come together sharing a common belief in the need to end a pandemic that has caused so much heartache, fear, death and loneliness. I hope one day very soon that this will all be over, and that on the other side, we will become more compassionate with one another.”
Kate Morris, a B.S. in Nursing candidate from New Fairfield, also has administered vaccinations under supervision along with diverse registration and post-vaccination monitoring tasks at Nuvance clinics throughout the winter break.
“This vaccination program has helped to further develop my clinical skills and given me more confidence in my abilities as I have been given the opportunity to take on more of a leadership role within these clinical settings,” Morris said. “My personal reasons for participating in this program have been to give back to my community, and to do anything that I can to prevent the spread of Covid 19 by helping to protect our front-line workers and the patients they care for. This pandemic has negatively impacted the lives of so many people in my own life as well as around the world. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to be able to administer these vaccines.”
Morris observed that WCSU nursing student volunteers have been deeply moved by the outpouring of gratitude received from the clinicians they work with and the patients receiving vaccination.
“I feel very proud to have administered some of the first Covid 19 vaccines in the state of Connecticut,” she said. “We will be on the front lines ourselves soon, so I am glad that I have been able to give back to those currently there and help them until I can join them.”
“For those of us who have participated in this historic event, I feel this is something we will remember doing for the rest of our lives,” she added. “I am so thankful to the WCSU Nursing program for giving us the opportunity to help bring an end to this pandemic. It is an incredible program and it has truly shaped me into the person who I am today.”
Lupinacci views the partnership in the Nuvance and Danbury Public Health programs as a continuation of the WCSU Nursing Department’s longstanding commitment to active engagement in the regional health care system and to the highest standards of professional training for students seeking a career in nursing.
“These programs foster networking and collaboration as we work together to enhance public health and strengthen our regional health care system,” she said. “Our partners have helped us for many years to place our students and embark on their nursing careers. We want to give back to our community as recognition of all the help we receive year-round.”