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The Vaccinators: Nurses and Needles on the Pandemic Front Lines.

During the 1918 influenza pandemic, Penn nurses served on the front lines in neighborhoods across hard-hit Philadelphia and elsewhere, risking their lives to provide comfort to the sick and educate families about prevention. A century later, Penn nurses are again on the front lines, administering COVID-19 vaccines at hospitals, mobile clinics, community centers, schools, assisted living facilities, in people’s homes, and more. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

An informal survey found Penn Nursing faculty, alumni, and students organizing vaccination sites, administering shots, observing patients for adverse reactions, educating people who are hesitant about getting a vaccine, helping patients with limited English proficiency, scheduling second doses, and even coaching medical-student volunteers. From simply sticking around for a day or two to help out to volunteering on a weekly basis to playing lead roles as charge nurses at injection sites nationwide, Penn nurses can be found doing what they have been doing since 1886: treating patients, expanding the boundaries of medical knowledge, and engaging in communities to promote good health.

“The best part,” says Amanda Hyslop RN Nu’06, “has been witnessing health care workers, social workers, firemen, paramedics, doctors, and nurses come together to move our country forward.”

1. Julie Sochalski, PHD, RN, FAAN, Penn Nursing Faculty

Role: Associate Professor of Nursing Associate Dean for Academic Programs

Sochalski stepped in at the Penn Community Vaccine Collaborative and the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, where she prepared vaccines for administration, answered questions, observed vaccinated populations after receiving vaccine, and led/managed an intake pod. The stories and experiences from the community residents coming to the clinics, she says, provide keen insight into what it will take to expand efforts to grow the vaccinated population.

“I’ve been out of direct clinical practice for some time, and in the clinic, I feel like a nurse again. It reaffirms why, now decades ago, I chose the best of all professions.”

2. Therese S. Richmond, PHD, RN, FAAN, GRN’95, Penn Nursing Faculty and Alumna

Role: Andrea B. Laporte Professor Associate Dean for Research & Innovation

Richmond served as a vaccinator for Penn Medicine vaccination clinics in southwest Philadelphia. Over the years, she has partnered with several groups and residents in a research quest to address community violence and improve health and well-being. These partners welcomed Richmond’s team and shared tremendous expertise about their community and its strengths.

“Serving as a vaccinator seems like a small, tangible way to give back. It has been a delightful experience— especially having the chance to vaccinate teenagers!”

3. Amanda Hyslop, RN, BSN, APRN, Nu’06, Penn Nursing Alumna

Role: Marin Medical Reserve Corps

Hyslop initially served in a mobile clinic, vaccinating workers at skilled nursing homes. In January, she began volunteering on Fridays at the Marin Civic Center, vaccinating essential health care workers, then teachers and seniors, and eventually the wider community … including her own 12-year-old daughter.

“Vaccinating against COVID-19 has been an elevated experience. From cheers to tears, I have witnessed such a magnificent feat. Marin County tops the nation’s rollout rankings with currently 82.3% of its residents 12 and over completing the vaccine series. I am proud to have contributed to these excellent results.”

4. Faye White-Willinger, RN, HNB-BC, Nu’88, Penn Nursing Alumna

Role: Staff Nurse in Allergy and Immunology Department at NYU Student Health Center

White-Willinger sat on the committee that organized and set up the vaccination process (arrival to injection). Serving as a charge nurse, supervising around twelve nurses on a team that administered approximately 3,400 vaccines over seven weeks at NYU, WhiteWillinger says that one challenge they faced was making sure that none of the Pfizer vaccines—which come in vials of six doses—went to waste.

“At the end of the day my anxiety level would go up trying to make sure we had patients in multiples of six. If someone was late for their appointment and we had only four people at the end of the day, we had to waste two doses. We didn’t waste many. I was very happy; [almost] everybody showed up!”

Irene Lee, Penn Nursing Student

Role: Accelerated BSN Program

As a Penn nursing student, Lee helped administer vaccinations to Penn Medicine patients at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. She also vaccinated and monitored older adults in West Philadelphia at Mercy LIFE West Philadelphia, and, during summer break, volunteered at the Crane Chinatown Community Center vaccination clinic, where she helped set up the clinic, registered patients, and assisted patients with limited English proficiency.

“Closely supervised by our instructors, we students ‘set up shop’ in our vaccination pods and administered vaccine after vaccine to our patients, refining our injection skills, having awesome conversations, and building immunity in the Penn Medicine patient population.”

Sarah H. Kagan, PHD, RN, Penn Nursing Faculty and Clinician Educator

Role: Lucy Walker Honorary Term Professor of Gerontological Nursing

Kagan worked with Penn Nursing alumna and adjunct faculty Ashley Ritter PhD CRNP Nu’07 GNu’10 GR’18 along with two other alumni—Molly Langford MSN CRNP Nu’95 GNu’96 and Donna Graham CRNP GNu’02. They were joined by three Temple University medical students at Ritter’s employer, NewCourtland, an independent living facility. Kagan had received her first vaccination at NewCourtland. When she arrived for her second, she learned that additional vaccinators were needed, so she volunteered.

“True to my nurse educator self, I spent the day coaching two terrific medical students to provide vaccinations with a person-centered approach, using the perfect technique, while I completed each person’s vaccination card.”