As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be distributed throughout Pennsylvania, nurses are stepping up to assist with vaccination efforts, including Duquesne’s own alumni, faculty and students.
On Saturday, Jan. 30, alumni Amy Morgan, MSN, CRNP, CLC, and Amber Kolesar, MSN, RN, CNE, CCRN-K, who is also an instructor at the Duquesne University School of Nursing, volunteered their time and talents at a vaccine distribution clinic in Bethel Park, a suburb of Pittsburgh. An estimated 2,000 people received a vaccination shot at this event, which was hosted by Spartan Pharmacy.
In the Q&A below, they share why they are getting involved in vaccination efforts.
Why did you volunteer to administer the COVID-19 vaccine?
Amy Morgan (AM): I volunteered because it is an honor to be able to help keep my community healthy. I received my own COVID vaccine from Spartan the previous weekend when they held a clinic in Brentwood, so this seemed like the perfect way to say thank you. We are all learning as we go in terms of mass vaccination for this virus — we truly need all hands on deck!
Amber Kolesar (AK): I volunteered because this was a tangible way that I could help my community. I remember getting my vaccine and feeling so excited and thankful. I haven’t been at the bedside on the front lines during this pandemic like so many of my colleagues and former students, so I thought that this was a way that I could give back.
How did you find out about this opportunity?
AM: I am familiar with Spartan Pharmacy as a provider, patient and parent. They’ve worked tirelessly to vaccinate as many as they possibly can.
AK: I found out about this opportunity from a former colleague, but I had been on a waitlist to volunteer. I was drawn to this one in particular because I live in the area, so I was able to vaccinate neighbors! I saw lots of familiar smiling faces.
Will you volunteer again at possible clinics like this in the future?
AM: Definitely! The faster we can give our community protection, the faster we can all rid ourselves of the fear of making a loved one ill. As we have seen, this virus is unpredictable in who will have severe symptoms.
AK: Absolutely! I plan to return to administer the second round of the vaccine in four weeks. It is an easy way to help the community and to get back to normal again. Even if there was a bit of a wait, people were so grateful and so kind. At every moment during my shift, I felt hopeful.
There was such a sense of community — from pharmacists to support staff to physicians and nurses — everyone was there for a common goal. It was a really special thing to be a part of. There is a lot of desperation — many people want the vaccine and cannot get it just yet. If there is anything that I can do to make it more accessible, I will be there!
Is there any moment from this particular experience that is memorable?
AM: So many great moments! Everyone there (volunteers and patients alike) was so happy to do their part to move on from this pandemic. It was truly a celebration. Everyone had a story about parents, grandchildren, loved ones they can now plan to reunite with: grandbabies waiting to be snuggled, elderly parents in nursing homes waiting to be visited in person, a mother who was waiting to be brought home on hospice, bucket list trips waiting to be taken.
The most impactful to me, though, was a woman who apologized for crying, going on to explain she lost her husband six months ago and has been living with the fear that she would die from COVID and leave her children orphans. Getting her vaccine took an unspeakable weight off her shoulders.
AK: The entire day was wonderful. People were so grateful. At the very beginning of the day, we had a little huddle from the medical supervisor (Dr. Timothy Campbell, who was wonderful!). At my table, I had a bunch of syringes lined up, and I got emotional — this is the start of getting back to normal.
One woman sat in my chair, and I reviewed her medical information. She noted that she was immunocompromised and had just finished chemotherapy. I said, “I am so happy that you’re here!” and we both smiled and got a little choked up. I was so humbled to have played a very minor part, but she thanked me for my congratulations and for participating in this effort. There was also an older woman that pulled out her phone and showed me her EIGHT grandkids that she has not gotten to hold since March of 2020 — I told her six more weeks! She was so excited!