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Nursing students helping vaccinate GRCC students and employees: 'The most beautiful experience I have ever seen’

A School News Network feature: GRCC Nursing students administered shots recently into the arms of students and campus employees and others at DeVos Place, hoping to be part of the solution to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students served as volunteers at the downtown Grand Rapids site, working to vaccinate those 16 and older who now qualify for the vaccine. Some people receiving shots were taking part in the Shot of Love Campaign, an effort to vaccinate GRCC employees, students and their household family members in partnership with Urban Church Leadership Center and Spectrum Health

Nursing students said it was the chance to take part in a global public health effort   making a difference on their own campus. Several faculty members also administered shots.

“This experience was very joyful and fulfilling,” said licensed practical nurse Eduardo Calderon, of helping people get vaccines that are “like gold right now.” 

DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave., has been the site of more than 300,000 vaccinations as of mid-April. Vaccine appointments can be made by registering here.

Calderon is working on an associate degree in nursing at GRCC through the Futures for Frontliners program. “I feel very good to help out in my community. It’s very rewarding to be able to help the community especially with something like COVID vaccines.”

As an LPN, he works fulltime at the Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center, and has seen the impact and felt the stress of COVID as patients and healthcare workers have tested positive. He also had a mild case of COVID-19 and received the vaccine when it first became available.

Now, he’s happy to do what he can to end the pandemic.

“It felt very good to be able to be involved in this global exercise to help bring those numbers down,” he said.

LPN Jonisha Hill also is working on a nursing associate degree, and estimates she administered between 60 and 70 vaccines at DeVos Place.

“It was the most beautiful experience I have ever seen in my 27 years of living,” she said. “There were so many happy people expressing the happiness of being vaccinated and helping others around them.”

Hill has worked during the pandemic at a long-term care facility, where many elderly patients died with COVID-19. She said volunteering at the clinic was a different atmosphere, one of positivity and hope. People asked to take photos with her after receiving the vaccine. 

“It was a joyous occasion, and I am so glad GRCC gave me the opportunity to see it from that perspective,” Hill said.

Nursing Programs Director Shelly Richter said the opportunity for nursing students to participate in the vaccine clinic goes far beyond the basic skill of administering injections and vaccines.

“This setting provides students a broader view and understanding of teamwork and the subsequent ripple effects that can positively impact our community and beyond, especially in the midst of this ongoing global pandemic," she said. "The opportunity to work with a variety of team members in an effort to educate and vaccinate our community has been invaluable.”

This story was reported by Erin Albanese of the School News Network.

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