covid-19 vaccine blessings

This week I had the pleasure to be a volunteer vaccinator. Day 1 I supervised nursing, pharmacy, and medical students who had volunteered to be vaccinators during their holiday break. Day 2 I was one of the people blessed to be giving vaccines to frontline healthcare workers. The entire event was well organized to make sure not a single vaccine went unused and that the vaccinators were not pulled from the frontline staff, but rather faculty and students. Everyone was prescreened and consented. They were then entered into medical records and the appointment for the 2nd vaccine schedule with an appointment card handed to each person. When each got to the vaccine station everything was triple checked and they were again ask about history of fainting or allergic reactions. Each vaccine was appropriately labeled and rechecked for dosage.

In my career I’ve been part of flu vaccine clinics and many emergency responses, but this felt different. This time the people I vaccinated were my friends, colleagues, and neighbors that had been risking their lives for others for the last 11 months. They were tired and stressed, but when the needle went in their arms it was as if months of fatigue and stress melted away. The expression was a cross between relief and gratitude. And yet, with each vaccine my sense of respect and love grew for them. They served knowing the risk and when they got vaccinated not one responded as if it were owed to them, but rather they were grateful. These men and women who had given their all for months were grateful to us because as one young man said to me, we were told that all of you volunteered your time to help us. I almost cried looking at what months of wearing a mask had done to the bridge of his nose and he was thanking of us. It gave new meaning to selfless.

When I became a nurse I felt that it was a calling. Most days I can’t imagine having ever done anything else, with maybe the exception of viticulture. I hope when you look at these physicians, nurses, housekeepers, and other frontline healthcare workers you see the love of God. They did their jobs when no one knew if there would be a vaccine. They did their jobs as people continued to not wear masks and acted irresponsibly. And, they did their jobs with inadequate PPE, squabbling politicians, policies made by people who knew and cared nothing about public health, deaths of coworkers, and through myriad lunatic conspiracy theories.

When I imagine the love of God the mental image will be of the masked face of a healthcare worker.


Rejoice: COVID-19 vaccinations begin

The third Sunday of Advent is a day to Rejoice. This year it feels especially true as I cried watching the first trucks loaded with COIVID-19 vaccines pull away from the facility headed toward you. I was grateful for the scientist who used their intelligence to imagine new vaccines that can be produced quickly and safely. I was grateful for the FDA that insisted on following the safety procedures even in a crisis so we could all have faith the vaccines are safe. I was grateful to FedEx, UPS, and Boyles that are doing the deliveries, and for the U.S. Marshalls that are escorting them. I was grateful for all of those that have served on the committees that planned how to distribute the vaccine when it arrives in communities all across the country. And I am grateful for all of those that are working in their communities to be advocates for vaccinations.

Two days this week I am volunteering to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. It will be the first time since March that I have been inside in a room with a large group of people I don’t know except to go to the grocery store. While I have concerns about doing indoor vaccination I think it is worth the risk to keep hospitals and communities from using nurses that are caring for patients. I also believe it is a small way to give back to all of the frontline personnel that did so much for all of us during this pandemic. When this over we owe them so very much more.

The first day I’m eligible I plan to show up, roll up my sleeve, and get vaccinated. It is important for everyone to get vaccinated. We need to reach a minimum of 70% of the population vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and that means the majority of us have to play our role as good citizens. It is what Americans do. We show up when we are needed and we come together. We see the whole as more important than any one individual. And we enter each crisis as a community. I don’t want this crisis to be any different.

To me it is simple:

  • Love yourself enough to stay healthy by being vaccinated.
  • Love your community enough to reduce risk and be able to fully participate.
  • Love your country enough to help end this pandemic, end the isolation, and make it possible for everyone to get back to work, school, and church.

I miss seeing my friends and my students. I miss taking the time to talk to the people in the grocery store. I miss restaurants, concerts, plays, and travel. Most importantly, I miss a time when the daily news didn’t involve numbers of the dead, ICU availability, and new positive tests. I hope each of you will do your part and get vaccinated.

I know that many fear vaccinations and there have been things in our past that add to that fear. There are others that believe conspiracy theories, it will most likely be impossible to change their views. By their nature, conspiracy theorists are not rational. They can no more control their irrationality than a person who is afraid can control their fear. The difference is the person who is afraid may recognize the fear as not in their best interest, but the person that believes conspiracy theories will not. Therefore, it is important to walk with the people that are afraid and be their strength and comfort. We should not equate people who are afraid with those who buy into conspiracies. I hope that each of my friends who has influence and trust in their community will take the time and effort to walk with those that are afraid or lack trust. Lend them your compassion and your strength.

The light at the end of the tunnel may just be UPS and FedEx headlights. Give them a warm welcome and for the next few months pull to the side and let them through traffic.


Let May Registered Nurse Graduates Practice Now

Each May over 100,000 nursing students graduate from programs across the country. Most of those students are now being pulled out of clinical and their classes have moved online. Some are being told their graduation may be delayed. The faculty will make every effort to deliver the content, but it will not be the same as the in-person classes. As anyone who has developed an online class knows it is an extreme amount of work that can’t be done in a few days.

Considering the current 8% nationwide vacancy rate for nurses and that the additional need over the next few months may exceed 100,000 nurses, it would help with the surge needs of hospitals to grant the May graduates their degrees now and waive the NCLEX. I know that some will think this is radical and how will we ensure quality. The truth is most students pass on the first try (88.18%) and if you add a second try (72.85) it is near 100% total pass rate. While students may go back and study more they do no more clinical. Thus the clinical skills they have at graduation are the ones they will have when they enter practice even if they take the exam a second time. If we can get the students out now, it may be a substantial help to hospitals that are likely to become quickly overburdened. Additionally, most of these nurses will be in the age group less impacted by COVID-19.

A second option would be to allow them to graduate now, practice for 6 months as an RN and at the end of that time take the NCLEX. As a faculty member, I prefer option 1 because we know that the longer the student delays the NCLEX the less likely they are to pass on the first attempt. Universities are assessed based on that pass rate and it would be unfair to penalize them, or the students, as the result of a national emergency.

I can hear the uproar now from people saying they need to be oriented, we don’t enough people now, and so on. However, much of the orientation could be condensed. Much of HIPAA is waived during a public health emergency so do they really need that training right now? Most have used the electronic medical record in school, so it could be taught very quickly. They are all required to have the necessary vaccines, CPR, and many other items just to enter their clinical practice settings. The truth is there is a lot of redundancy between what a hospital requires for the new employees and what schools require for students in clinical.

It is time for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and all Boards of Nursing to take bold action. We should think out of the box and while we are at it break it down and throw it in the recycling bin. If we continue to practice as normal and hold tight to our policies we will do more harm than good if the worst-case scenario occurs with COVID-19. It is the time to act and let our May graduates have their degrees right now. If we wait until we are facing the worst-case scenario it will be too late. We must put the patient first.

Let May graduates practice. Let them join the fight against COVID-19.


Faith Communities and COVID19

I love my faith community, but I think this week they failed the community. It is Sunday and I stayed home. I am not sick, but I did get off a plane at 2:00 AM Saturday morning. I took all reasonable precautions and probably some that were overly cautious, but I would feel horrible if I went into what is a mass gathering and unintentionally put others at risk.

I fail to understand why we canceled university classes and religious leaders are not canceling services. For example, the University of Tennessee closed until April 3, closed the library (I chuckled that they feared a mass gathering), and put all classes online.  Why didn’t the university parish which serves the larger community also cancel services? They are creating a mass gathering. Do people of faith really believe that they are not creating a risk situation by gathering, or do they think God will protect them, or is it that their own self-interest is more important to them than the health of the community?

If I am sitting in a pew there are going to be a minimum of 12 people within 6 feet of me. That means one person that is infected can easily expose 12 more. They may not be coughing or sneezing, but they are touching the pews, singing, and reciting prayers. Even talking distributes droplets. I think we have all had the experience of talking to someone and have spittle land on us. Singing is likely to spread those droplets further than talking in a normal tone. Now add 100 – 500 people in a church, synagog, mosque, or another place of worship and imagine what you are potentially doing.

I am saddened to see our places of faith being less responsible than sports teams. Next time you talk about universities being the places that teach self-interest and are concerned that they don’t put the community first or don’t teach moral values,  you need to take a look at all the churches that chose to hold services knowing the risk and then compare that to all the universities and sports teams that cared enough for the community to act quickly.

We don’t have to be physically together to pray together. While it may help to clean the church, not pass collection baskets, and remove the holy water that is not social distancing. It doesn’t stop droplets and it doesn’t stop the respiratory spread from droplets in the air. People with no symptoms can spread coronavirus without knowing they have it. Be compassionate and know that God doesn’t live only in church. I am grateful to all of those that did cancel services and for all of those that took the time to pray at home. If you didn’t cancel your services you are not helping to flatten the curve.

I know for many their place of faith is a support system and not being able to attend is emotionally difficult. If you are sick or worried during this time I will promise to pray for you daily by name if you post a request and I will ask my friends to do the same. We can be a community and be in community with each other without being physically together.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”