On January 14, Cape May County Technical School practical nursing students celebrated administering their 1,000th COVID-19 vaccine to Shore Medical Center staff.
Shore Medical Center has been providing Cape May County Technical School practical nursing students with enriching clinical rotation experiences for many years, but their current class has had one of the most rewarding experiences at Shore to date, according to educators. Why? Because not only are students helping to care for Shore patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were also among the first to administer COVID-19 vaccines to Shore nurses, doctors and other members of the hospital staff. Under supervision from Shore’s pharmacy team and their Cape May Tech clinical instructors, the students have single-handedly vaccinated nearly all of the Shore Medical Center staff who signed up. Last week, they celebrated their 1,000th vaccination.
Ann Zilinek RN, BSN, is an practical nursing program instructor at Cape May County Technical School. She says being a part of such an important moment in our nation’s history and in medical history is priceless for the students.
“Giving these first COVID vaccines at Shore is an honor for us and our students. We appreciate that Shore allowed us to take part in this epic event.”
The students have also built a great relationship with the pharmacy team at Shore, who supported them throughout the process. Matthew Piskun, PharmD, MBA, Director of Pharmacy, Oncology and Infusion Services at Shore, educated students on the vaccine, how it works, and what side effects could potentially happen. He even shared his own experience as a member of the clinical trials while he was going through them back in the fall, which was especially interesting. A pharmacist is always in the room during vaccinations to help, but the students did their homework as well.
“The students were so well prepared that they were able to answer many of the vaccination questions as they administered them. They did a great job explaining possible side effects and comforting them during the process,” said Barbara Juzaitis, RN, MSN, CIC, another educator with the program. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity.”
In addition to administering vaccinations, the students also complete rotations in a number of areas throughout the hospital, with an emphasis on the medical surgical unit 5 Hayes, where Kelly Duma is the nurse manager. With Shore healthcare providers busier than ever, and in the absence of family members, the students have become true partners in providing patient centered care.
“The practical nursing students from Cape May Tech regularly provide tremendous support to Shore patients, but their value is more evident than ever during such unprecedented times like the COVID-19 pandemic,” Duma says. “The students’ support is always appreciated by staff, and the patients love the students!”
Juzaitis said one patient pulled her aside recently to share his gratitude for the students’ care. He said, “This has been such a great experience because I can’t have my family members around, but the students were with me and just took such good care of me.”
The practical nursing program at Cape May County Technical School is 11 months and involves clinical rotations throughout Shore Medical Center and in community settings like schools and assisted living facilities. Shore is their most frequent acute care site, but they rotate through 26 different sites during the year. Some sites have had to restrict student access in light of the pandemic, but Shore welcomed them with open arms. Shore also welcomed Rowan College and Atlantic County Institute of Technology students who participated in the vaccine clinics for staff.
Zilinek says although Shore isn’t a big city teaching hospital, to the students, it feels that way.
“I’ve worked in teaching hospitals, and Shore really fulfills that role for our students. They are acknowledged, included and staff are always ready and willing to answer their questions. Our students feel very comfortable here.”
Juzaitis added, “They really treat them as part of their team.”