Gianna LaMarca and Alexana Gadaleto are as thankful as the people they’re serving in their community.
The New Paltz residents are among the 53 senior nursing students at Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh who are volunteering during their winter break to administer the Covid-19 vaccine at four hospitals in the Hudson Valley.
“I’m grateful for the experiences I’m gaining,” Miss LaMarca, a 22-year-old parishioner of St. Joseph in New Paltz who has administered about 350 vaccines at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, told CNY.
“To be able to go into Vassar one, two, three times a week to give these vaccines is a great opportunity for the whole senior class to do it.”
This was the first time since the start of the pandemic in March that the college’s student nurses have worked in a hospital.
“Our nursing foundation is being built upon this virus and helping the community through it in whichever ways we can,” said Miss Gadaleto, another parishioner of St. Joseph in New Paltz.
“I’m happy to be directly working with my classmates again, especially in an important task like this.”
Volunteers such as Miss LaMarca and Miss Gadaleto began their work at Vassar without receiving a vaccine. Nursing students are wearing protective gear such as face masks, face shields and gloves as they administer vaccines to health care workers, first responders, teachers and other eligible community members. Vaccine recipients are wearing masks.
Sanitizer wipes are used to wipe off chairs, clipboards and pens.
“It’s such a clean and safe process,” Miss LaMarca said. “I haven’t been afraid because it’s such a great process for me being protected and everyone coming for the vaccine being protected with all the cleaning protocol and procedure we have.”
Nuvance Health, with hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Connecticut, reached out to Mount St. Mary in December for assistance from senior nursing students. Lynette DeBellis, who instructs seniors nursing students at the college, started coordinating the effort by holding a virtual meeting with students. Within a day, the necessary number of volunteers came forward to set the service in motion.
“I’m so proud of the students that they stepped up and volunteered at this time. They gave their own time to do this for the community,” said Mrs. DeBellis, a parishioner of St. Martin de Porres in Poughkeepsie.
“As nurses, this is a calling and you have to put your fears aside, especially in a pandemic. You just do what’s right for the community. This to me, the service to the community, is as important as just giving a vaccine.”
Students began administering vaccines at Vassar Dec. 18 and also are working at Putnam Hospital, Carmel, and Northern Dutchess Hospital, Rhinebeck. On Jan. 11, Montefiore St. Luke’s in Newburgh became the fourth hospital to have Mount St. Mary nursing students administer vaccines.
“I have heard nothing but positive comments about the students,” said Mrs. DeBellis, a graduate of Mount St. Mary and an instructor at the college for two years.
“They’ve been so professional and kind with the patients coming in. They’re really learning a lot about community service, which is what we want to instill in them.”
The nursing students will have stories to share of their opportunity to vaccinate people to prevent a virus that has infected and killed so many people from all over the world.
“It’s definitely something I’ll tell a story about one day eventually when I have my own family and children,” Miss LaMarca said. “I’m so grateful to be able to administer the vaccine and say I was one of the first people to administer the vaccine. It’s truly a part of history.”