For the duration of the spring 2021 semester, Elms College nursing students led the charge to vaccinate the most vulnerable members of American society.

In partnership with Big Y Foods, the Elms College School of Nursing helped operate two vaccination clinics in East Longmeadow and Greenfield, MA, assisting thousands of western Massachusetts in gaining protection against COVID-19.

“Our students are receiving a unique and impactful learning experience that will better prepare them as nurses,” said Kathleen B. Scoble, Ed.D., M.Ed., M.A., RN, dean of the School of Nursing.

A conversation earlier this year between Elms College President Harry E. Dumay, Ph.D., MBA, and Claire D’Amour-Daley, vice president of corporate communications at Big Y, resulted in the vaccination of thousands of coronavirus-vulnerable western Massachusetts residents while also giving hundreds of Elms nursing students valuable real-world patient-care experience. D’Amour-Daley told President Dumay about the supermarket chain’s plans to create a vaccination site, and suggested that Elms nursing students might want to be involved. He connected the college’s nursing faculty with Big Y management and pharmacists to coordinate a partnership. Kathleen Pont, M.S., APRN, director of the Accelerated Second Degree Program, checks in with students at the beginning of their clinic shift.

Students in the traditional undergraduate, accelerated second degree, RN-BSN, and MSN programs kept the clinics running efficiently by checking in patients, administering shots, observing patients to check for symptoms, and scheduling follow up visits. In addition to gaining invaluable experience to apply to their careers, many students expressed how they shared a common drive to benefit humanity.

Working on the frontlines of the pandemic gave the student volunteers invaluable real-world experience. For Shelby Brouillette ’22 of Springfield, MA, being at the clinic represents the full spectrum of holistic nursing.

“This experience allows us to get a really structured view of what we will do in the future as nurses,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

“Becoming a nurse allows me to do all the things I want to do in life, such as being a friend, an advocate, caregiver, and trustworthy individual all in one, to all the people that I have and have yet to come into contact with.”

Shelby Brouillette ’22
Photo of a nursing major at a COVID-19 clinic
Junior Nadia Lawrence ’22 of Norfolk, MA, administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to a patient in the East Longmeadow vaccine clinic. “It feels amazing to be administering vaccines as nursing students, and knowing that we are making such an positive impact during such a dark time,” she said. “For some, receiving the vaccine will finally allow them to see their children, parents, or grandchild.”
Junior Shelby Brouillette ’22, of Springfield, MA, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a patient. “I have always wanted to help people be the best versions of themselves to the best of my ability,” she said. “I want people to feel empowered, respected, cared for and treated with the dignity that they deserve, through everything I do.”
Sophomore Alexandria Carmon ’23, a resident of Pittsfield, MA, monitors a patient for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine. “Making a positive impact during this pandemic feels as though I have received a gift I could never match,” said Alexandria.
Sophomore Emily Gay ’23, junior Elizabeth Everson ’22, and sophomore Brian Cintron ’23 help visitors check in. For Elizabeth, this experience was the equivalent of establishing peace and serenity for the public. “It gives myself and many others hope for the future, and some solace,” she said. “I’ve been able to instill hope back into those who don’t have very much.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Olivia Koretz ’22, a junior from Windsor Locks, CT. “I wanted to do my part and inspire other future nurses to become healthcare heroes.”

“I think the community has really enjoyed having a local college here; they have been really receptive to our students,” said Assistant Clinical Professor of Nursing Carly Berneche ’11, DNP ’17, APRN, FNP-C. “We see them out in the community and if they see a student with scrubs on, they are just so appreciative to them.”

Berneche added that having the nursing students participate in the clinics is an educational experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their careers and is a strong representation of the Elms College mission of caring for the “dear neighbor.”

Sophomore Jennifer Girard ’23, of Belchertown, MA, directs patients to the tables where they will receive their vaccines. Says Jennifer, “This is one of my first times working with patients, so having this opportunity was amazing. It allowed me to challenge myself, communicate with patients, and make a difference.”
Sophomore Abbegale Connelly ’23 administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is so awesome the students are here,” said vaccine recipient Lillian Fedora. “They are very good. You do not even know you are getting your shot.”

“This partnership is crucial for the success of this whole program,” said Jennifer Salvon, the Massachusetts pharmacy operations manager for Big Y. “The Elms students have been very flexible, very knowledgeable and very hard working. We have got nothing but compliments on the techniques of the nurses and the way that the whole clinic is run. It has been a great relationship.”

Sophomore Rachel Burdette ’23 completes paperwork after administering a dose of the vaccine.
Junior Olivia Koretz ’22 of Windsor Locks, CT, examines a dose of the vaccine.

The nursing department planned to continue the partnership throughout the semester, and Berneche said it is possible Big Y will hire some of the students to work in the clinics during the summer, and that the partnership could continue in the fall if the clinics are still being held.

A version of this article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Elms Magazine. Additional content has been included for the web.