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College of Health and Human Sciences students and faculty on the front lines of COVID vaccinations

February 15, 2021

Blessing Christian has been using her clinical skills and making a difference in the fight against COVID-19.

The NIU nursing student is part of a team of Huskie nursing students and faculty who have been administering vaccinations to community members at the DeKalb County Health Department vaccination clinics held at the NIU Convocation Center.

“I have gained more exposure to real-world nursing than I had foreseen,” said Christian, who is from Naperville. “I never imagined that I would be giving around 200 vaccines to our community’s first responders, teachers, and elders. I feel honored to be a part of our NIU COVID vaccine clinic and to know that we have the power to protect so many individuals within our community.”

NIU School of Nursing chair, Susan Caplan, said it’s the school’s mission to prepare nursing students to be leaders in providing patient-centered care, fostering research, integrating knowledge and improving health outcomes for all.

Taking part in clinics, both in DeKalb and Kane County, exemplifies the mission.

“We have a historical opportunity to be a part of a groundbreaking effort to protect the health of millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide,” Caplan said. “To improve population health and prevent severe illness from COVID-19, we must support our mass vaccination campaigns.”

NIU nursing instructor, Mary Gawrys, said while administering COVID-19 vaccinations is new, providing hands-on experience for Huskie nursing students has always been an integral part of the program.

“The School of Nursing has worked closely with the DeKalb County Health Department for years,” Gawrys said. “We run the NIU flu clinics with them every fall, so we were prepared (for these mass vaccination clinics.)”

Gawrys said her students have given COVID-19 vaccinations weekly at the NIU Convocation center, and they’ve also acted as “clinical strike teams” to provide COVID vaccinations to area group homes, shelters and independent senior living facilities.

For students like Christian, it’s been rewarding on many levels.

“Being a part of our mass vaccination team has not only helped me become proficient in administering intramuscular injections, but also helped me connect to our community,” Christian said. “I feel much more comfortable with my skills now that I have gained experience through many interactions.”

Beverly Henry, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, said support at the mass vaccination clinics is a prime example of how students and faculty across the college take steps to support public health initiatives.

And there are opportunities for others to get involved.

“Individuals can support the vaccine efforts in Illinois by signing up at Illinois Helps, an Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP),” said Henry, who is a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer for Kane County Health Department. “COVID-19 affects everyone. Whenever we can support the local health departments, we are happy to do it.”

Learn more about NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.