UNCW nursing students enjoy front row seats making history, administer vaccine at movie theater clinic

Faculty, staff at UNCW's school of nursing help administer COVID-19 vaccines

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The University of North Carolina (UNCW)’s nursing program is stepping up to help New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) get vaccine to the people who need it most.

The 25 students and three staff members assigned to help at the Pointe 14 mass vaccination site do it all, from writing the vaccine cards and checking people in, to doing the injections themselves.

Kaitlyn Kern has already given over 100 COVID-19 vaccinations and she hasn’t even graduated from the university’s nursing program yet.

“It’s a lot different from when I was giving the flu shot,” said senior nursing student Kern. “With the COVID vaccine, it’s like you’re holding a prize and you’re giving someone this amazing opportunity to almost go back to normal.”

Taking part in a mass vaccination clinic in a movie theater is an opportunity many seasoned nurses haven’t seen in their lifetime. When the hospital reached out to UNCW for help, the slots filled quickly with eager nursing students.

”Its a happy atmosphere inside…there’s a lot of cheering, a lot of videotaping, but there are several tears shed as well—happy tears of course—so it’s a great environment. It’s rewarding...it’s so great to see people smile. You know, as a nurse, we have hard days. But days where we get to vaccinate like this, those aren’t hard, they’re the best,” said senior nursing student Blythe Mudgett.

The partnership allows NHRMC to keep more of its staff tending to patients in the hospital and gives UNCW students valuable experience in the field.

“To me this is just icing on the cake for them to be able to come to the vaccine clinic and to watch them learn and watch them grow,” said nurse educator Nina Williams. “I think this is only going to enhance what they’re going to take with them.”

Kern and Mudgett will be taking their skills to the front lines of the pandemic soon. Both students plan to work in the intensive care unit (ICU) after graduation, but for now, they’re just enjoying having a front row seat making history.

“I’m so excited to tell my kids and my grand kids in the future about what’s happening here; it’s really amazing,” said Kern.

“I feel like, on the darkest days that we had during the pandemic in the quarantine, and staying home and not knowing what was gonna happen, this is light…the light that we’ve been looking for so that we can hopefully get everyone in the community vaccinated and start having our normalcy again. And, I’m very excited that the students…they have a part of this; they’re taking part in making this happen.” added Williams.

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