Students in the nursing program at the University of Maine are being recruited to help distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Brendon Ward
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I am a third year English Major at the University of Maine. In my free time I can be found playing rugby, working out, or enjoying a good book.

The University of Maine’s nursing program is assisting in the COVID-19 vaccination process. Around 250 nursing student volunteers from the University of Maine System will be aiding in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Nursing program innovations and public health partnerships across the state have helped create this volunteer program, that will involve students from UMaine, UMaine Fort Kent and the University of Southern Maine. Prior to the start of the semester, UMaine students have already administered over 1,000 vaccines.  By the end of the semester, the program expects that students will complete a total of over 3,000 hours of volunteer work.

The nursing students from UMaine have been working in partnership with the Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, and the Penobscot Community Health Center. The program plans to continue to deploy 108 students to distribute vaccinations to older adults, as well as to frontline workers.

In a media briefing on the university’s involvement in vaccination deployment, University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy expressed his pride in the nursing program.

“We could not be more appreciative or proud of how our nursing students have helped lead Maine’s public health campaign,” Malloy said. “Hats off as well to our nursing program leaders and faculty who have pulled out all the stops to keep our students on track.”

Typically, students in the nursing program would be able to get firsthand experience in clinicals during their junior and senior years at UMaine. Due to the pandemic, the clinical process has been interrupted. 

Emma Moulton, a fourth-year nursing student at UMaine, gave her thoughts on the experience in the media briefing.

“I was frustrated by how [COVID-19] forced us to change our clinical experiences in the spring, costing us hands-on opportunities in hospitals,” Moulton said. “Now we go into this semester with a chance to fight back, complete our clinical training, and help end the pandemic.”

Many of the other students involved in the media briefing expressed similar sentiments, including fourth-year nursing student, Nicole Despres.

“The healthcare workers we vaccinated this week are on the front lines of caring for patients,” Despres said. “Their appreciation and eagerness to accept an injection from a nursing student were heartwarming. I am really glad I had this chance to refresh my skills and to help.”

Both Moulton and Despres vaccinated around 50 people each before the semester began, and will continue to be involved in the vaccination process until they are expected to graduate this coming May.

 Charis Morin, a fourth-year nursing, who will be administering vaccines at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, feels that her education has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So many things about my course of study have changed due to [COVID-19]” Morin said. “I had to do these online simulations and virtual patient models to finish up my clinical credit, along with all my classes suddenly being online when I was so used to them being in person. It was crazy.”

Morin is excited for the opportunity to aid in the vaccination process as a nursing student.

It’s really cool to know that I get to be a part of making history and get to be a part of making others more powerful against the coronavirus,” Morin said. “I get to be the one to give people protection from one of, if not the, deadliest things in our world today. I’m also excited to give [the vaccine] because I’ve never given injections to a real person before, which I think will be fun, though a little nerve-wracking at first.”

Morin will be helping vaccinate frontline workers, an opportunity which will be beneficial to both nursing students and to the medical professionals who are helping to protect the public from the spreading virus. She expressed great excitement about being able to get hands-on experience with vaccinations. Morin plans to graduate in fall of 2021.

Even in the face of such unprecedented times, the University of Maine System has found a way to ensure the best quality education and opportunities for nursing program students.