It’s not often that Stockton University nursing students can say they helped make history.
But 105 nursing students are participating in a piece of pandemic history as participants in the Atlantic County COVID-19 Vaccination Megasite the State of New Jersey, Atlantic County, AtlantiCare and the New Jersey National Guard are operating at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
“It’s a blessing,” said student Alexis Land of Clementon, as she and nine classmates prepared for a rotation through all of the different sections of the megasite, including actually giving vaccinations.
Denise Petro, an adjunct nursing clinical faculty member in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, said this is the first hands-on clinical experience her students have been able to do because of pandemic restrictions.
“When I heard about this I was ecstatic,” Petro said. “These students are going to be able to say that they helped during an historic event, and they get to see what it takes to put on an event like this.”
The students are participating in groups of 10 with a faculty member. They include junior and senior Bachelor of Science in Nursing students and college graduates who are earning a nursing degree in the Accelerated BSN program based at Stockton’s site in Manahawkin.
Prior to this semester, students completed a nursing foundation course in which they learned multiple nursing skills, attended labs on campus where they practiced with simulations, and were tested on psychomotor skills including medication administration via injections.
Before their clinical rotation at the Convention Center the students complete a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program on vaccination administration, post vaccination monitoring and proper techniques. They also completed an AtlantiCare educational module and quiz on COVID vaccination.
On their assigned day at the Convention Center the students have a morning pre-conference to discuss in detail the plans for the day, and review the technique for giving the vaccination injection. They also participate in the morning group meeting at the site with all megasite staff. Throughout the day they rotate through different areas of the megasite so they can experience the entire process. A Stockton nursing faculty member follows them through the day to observe and answer questions.
Those interviewed said they appreciate that they are getting a unique experience at the Convention Center.
“This is highlighting public health, and what it is,” said student Amber Minick of Toms River.
“It really is cool to be a nursing student now,” said Michaella Butrico of Seaside Heights. “We are getting a different experience.”
“This is such a rare experience to be able to come here,” said Nick Dunham of Montgomery, N.J.
Some of the students have already worked in public health-related jobs and are excited to get their BSN.
Land said she worked hard to get accepted into the Accelerated BSN program, and she was not going to let COVID-19 stop her from getting the degree.
Nancy Powell, RN, director of professional development and a nurse scientist with AtlantiCare said they have reduced in-person clinical opportunities for nursing students during the pandemic to meet social distancing and public health guidelines.
“We know these students have not had the same experiences as previous groups, so we reached out to the college to do this,” Powell said. “It is an amazing asset for us to have them here (at the megasite) and the students are learning so much about how to talk and interact with people in a medical setting, and work with other teams. In a lot of clinicals, students spend a lot time watching. Here, there is actual doing.”
Powell said the students can also take what they learned at the site out to the public to help educate about the vaccination process.
“It’s really monumental, what they are doing,” said Sherrie Bragg, RN, AtlantiCare, clinical manager of the megasite.