CSUN nursing students are volunteering in the historic effort to deliver vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic, helping facilitate shots to hundreds of health care workers at three Los Angeles County hospitals.

“People were cheering the first day we were there at Valley Presbyterian,” said Ariel Dankner, who is starting her fourth and final semester in CSUN’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and also volunteered to help with vaccines at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. “Everyone applauded the first person who got vaccinated. Everyone was taking pictures of themselves getting vaccinated and posting it, encouraging other people to get vaccinated.”

The nursing students began volunteering during finals week in December and continued to sign up for shifts in January. In all, approximately 55 CSUN students volunteered to help vaccinate hundreds of people at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and Valley Presbyterian Hospital.

The first doses of the vaccine have gone to health care workers — including doctors, nurses and support staff — who are at greatest risk of exposure to the coronavirus. About a dozen CSUN nursing students also have been eligible to get the vaccine, with more expected to do so in the coming weeks.

Some students, including Dankner, volunteered for shifts in which they were responsible for actually giving the shot. Others assisted nurses with all the related tasks of vaccine administration, including sterilizing the area between patients, putting bandages on the injection site, and watching recipients for adverse reactions (which rarely occurred).

“It’s humbling and an honor to be one piece of that huge puzzle to make it all work,” said Nina Amirian, who is entering her last semester in the Accelerated BSN program and volunteered at Valley Presbyterian.

Fourth-semester students in the Accelerated BSN program started the CSUN program in January 2020 and will graduate this spring. Although the university and local hospitals were operating relatively normally for a few weeks in early 2020, the students’ entire nursing experience has been in the shadow of COVID.

The vaccine signals a shift to an eventual return to a post-pandemic existence, where they can focus on healing patients without fears of bringing home a life-threatening virus.

“[Volunteering to help with vaccines] was a pretty joyous event,” said Patrick Hang, who is starting his second semester in the Accelerated BSN program and volunteered at Valley Presbyterian. “This vaccine represented a turning point or a checkpoint along the path. It could give us a prospective end date.”

Rebekah Child, chair of CSUN’s Department of Nursing, arranged the volunteer opportunities with facilities that needed volunteer help. The students received credit for clinical hours or public health community hours. All the tasks handled by students freed up hospital resources.

“We’ve had a wonderful, wonderful relationship with CSUN for quite some time,” said Heather Van Hoogten, director of education at Valley Presbyterian. “We love having their students on [the hospital’s] campus. They’re always engaged. They’re always prepared.”

The students are already looking ahead to more opportunities to assist with the vaccination efforts.

“I think they’re going to need more students once the public starts getting the vaccine,” Dankner said.


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