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School of Nursing students and faculty help vaccinate Chicago

More than 150 students, 20 faculty volunteering at Chicago Department of Public Health sites

Nursing student gives vaccine
DePaul nursing student Ellen Boyer administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a Chicago Department of Public Health point of distribution. Boyer is one of more than 150 DePaul School of Nursing students volunteering alongside faculty to help vaccinate members of the community. (DePaul University/Randall Spriggs)
Students and faculty from DePaul’s School of Nursing are helping to power Chicago’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. In collaboration with the Chicago Department of Public Health, more than 150 DePaul nursing students and 20 faculty members are volunteering to help at points of distribution, or PODs, throughout the city. Some DePaul students also are finding opportunities to help with the vaccination efforts at their clinical sites and hospitals throughout the area.

Together, students and faculty are supporting public health workers at a pivotal point in the pandemic, as vaccinations ramp up at the city and state level.

“This opportunity allows students to gain real-world experience while serving their community,” says Suling Li, chief nursing officer and director of the School of Nursing. “Students will develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of the public health system and what it takes to protect the public’s health.”

The experience comes at a time when many nursing students are eager to practice their clinical skills and care for patients. When vaccination planning began in 2020, faculty reached out to the City of Chicago to see how they could help.

“This an opportunity for both students and faculty to have a positive and lasting effect on the community and nation,” says Raegan Quandt, a clinical assistant professor of nursing and volunteer coordinator. “Our nursing faculty and students get to be part of the greater good and effect change.”

Nursing student Mirra Duffy
Nursing student Mirra Duffy helped with the vaccination effort at Loretto Hospital during her clinical rotation. “It feels good to be part of a team and to be able to make an impact,” Duffy says. (Image courtesy of Mirra Duffy)
‘A sense of relief’

On their first weekend of volunteering in late February, faculty and students pitched in at Malcom X College, one of the city’s busiest PODs. Nursing student Corin Hill personally helped more than 400 people, many of whom were receiving their second shot.

“There was a sense of relief that came across people as soon as I put the Band-Aid on their arm. It’s giving people hope that we are moving forward to a new normal,” says Hill, president of the DePaul Student Nurses Association.

Mirra Duffy was in a clinical rotation at Loretto Hospital in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood when she was invited to help give shots. Many of the patients there cheer when they get vaccinated, Duffy says.

“It feels good to be part of a team and to be able to make an impact. The pandemic has really just strengthened my desire to go into nursing,” says Duffy, who is in DePaul’s Master’s Entry to Nursing Practice program. She hopes to pursue a career as an intensive care unit nurse.

In addition to practicing intramuscular injections, students at the city’s PODs are assisting at check-in, observing patients for any side effects and registering them for second doses. 

“They are gaining valuable client interaction experience through screening questions and providing reassurance,” says Alison DiValerio, a clinical assistant professor who supervised students on site.

The COVID-19 vaccines are sensitive and arrive at the site frozen, then must be thawed and distributed carefully to avoid waste. For DiValerio, a memorable moment was when two SWAT team members carried in the cold storage “green box” containing the Pfizer vaccine. 

“It was almost ceremonial,” she says. DePaul students watched the process of unboxing the vials, and the city’s public health nurse supervised students as they assisted with the careful steps that go into making and drawing up doses of the vaccine.

“This was so special to be able to do. Now we have the opportunity to say that we mixed the Pfizer vaccine and administered it,” Hill says. “As we become registered nurses, we will need to be confident handling medications and vaccines that are more sensitive than others. Having the opportunity to do it here and be part of something bigger than myself really encompassed the reason why I want to be a nurse.”

Media contact:
Kristin Claes Mathews 
312-241-9856 (cell)