BOONEVILLE Northeast Mississippi Community College students are gaining firsthand experience administering COVID-19 vaccinations at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Booneville.

Freshman nursing students Jake Garrett and Jeanifer Kilpatrick are among those who have administered vaccines so far.

“It’s definitely an opportunity we normally would not get,” Garrett said. “This is probably one of the more simple things that we’ll be doing in our career, but I feel like this repetitive muscle memory, this is what we need.”

Although the pandemic is happening on a global scale, Garrett said it feels good to assist people, especially the elderly, in his own community.

“Three out of several (vaccines) I gave yesterday were to people that I knew because it’s such a small town,” Garrett said. “It’s nice knowing that they have confidence in the vaccine to be able to get it.”

“And confidence in us to give it to them,” Kilpatrick added with a laugh.

Both students started nursing school in August, five months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Administering COVID-19 vaccines reinforces the reason they enrolled in the nursing program in the first place – to gain the knowledge and experience needed to help keep people healthy.

“The field of nursing has just totally changed in the past year, and we’re getting to experience it firsthand,” Garrett said. “I feel like it’s an advantage to us and it’s an advantage to our community because we’re seeing all of these major changes in health care firsthand.”

For better or worse, it’s an opportunity other nursing students have not had.

“We’re having to adapt to a field that is changing so quickly right now that we’re not sure, really, what our scope is going to be when we graduate,” Garrett said. “But at least we’re in it and learning the new while we’re in it. That’ll be better for us in the long run, and we’ll be able to hopefully continue on, keep learning more about these new policies, procedures and guidelines.”

Melissa Morgan, NEMCC associate degree nursing instructor, said the hospital partnership came about after she reached out to Jana Crittenden, Chief Nursing Officer at BMH-Booneville.

Students give the injections, casually converse with patients and monitor them for 15 minutes to watch for side effects after administering them.

Morgan said the program has partnered with the BMH before, but “not on this scale.”

“I knew that to get this (vaccine) out to the community, we were going to have to have resources,” Morgan said. “We do community hours, service projects, clinical hours, all of this the students can use. So I felt like this would be a great way to get them out there, get some of those hours met.”

There are about 78 freshmen and 79 sophomore nursing students, according to Morgan. Students administer vaccines on a rotating schedule so that all participants receive firsthand experience.

“It’s been a great help to us to be able to have that extra support versus having to pull somebody who is taking care of a patient at a bedside to give a vaccine,” Crittenden said.

It also gives students the on-the-job experience they’ll be expected to have when they come to work in a hospital.

“The actual giving of the injection, monitoring the patient and also education about the vaccine and about side effects and when to come back and get it,” Crittenden said. “All those things are expected when you’re a nurse.”

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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