Nursing Student and Volunteer Hours Have Totaled over 12,500
JOLIET, IL – The challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about an amazing opportunity for volunteers to assist the WCHD (Will County Health Department), especially when the vaccine rollout began last December.
The active members of the WCHD MRC (Medical Reserve Corps), really stepped up to assist with COVID Vaccination clinics. The MRC has been in place since 2007, training and preparing volunteers to respond to public health emergencies alongside the WCHD. They were activated for H1N1 vaccine administration in 2009, and have worked tornado responses in the past as well. In the absence of public health emergencies, MRC volunteers have worked food bank distributions, flu clinics, community preparedness events, and collected and distributed care packages to troops serving overseas in their “Operation Santa Drop” exercise.
But that was only the beginning. Phone calls and e-mails from numerous entities around Will County, such as retired nurses and medical personnel or simply those wanting to help, were calling or e-mailing by the multi-dozen every single day. This incredible response increased the MRC roster, and led to a total of 7,826 volunteer MRC hours thus far for the year 2021.
Volunteers were often seen in the Will County Health Department and other Health Department vaccination clinics, such as the National Guard Toys R Us location, from the start of the vaccine rollout.
“We first started receiving potential volunteers from our early vaccination clinics,” said WCHD MRC and Volunteer Coordinator Barb Agor. “As they were receiving their own vaccine, many asked how they could help. Then, volunteers and WCHD employees referred friends, family members, and colleagues to volunteer with us as well. We even had communities put out a call for volunteers in their own newsletters. It was wonderful to see the community coming together.”
There was also the incredible turnout, not to mention an amazing but certainly unscheduled opportunity, for nursing students in the Will County area.
From January through May, student nurses assisting with vaccinations and other necessities donated 4,733 hours of their time. This included 280 hours from University of Saint Francis students, 945 hours from Lewis University students, 1,086 hours from students at Joliet Junior College, and an amazing 2,453 hours from students at Rasmussen University.
“The nursing students have been amazing partners,” said Agor. “It was a win-win for all of us. They were in need of clinical sites for the students to receive their hours, and we were in need of medical volunteers for our clinics. They were willing to work, under a preceptor, at any site in the county, as well as for other Will County vaccination partners, or even locations outside Will County.”
For retired Joliet West High School Health Science teacher and WCHD MRC volunteer Mary Spata, the experience has been overwhelming in many ways. While at Joliet West, Spata ran the student Future Health Professionals (HOSA) organization. Being in HOSA allows students to participate in WCHD MRC events. Spata says volunteering for the vaccination effort was a natural for her students. “We helped wherever we could, be it registering people or even translating. Plus, as a volunteer at vaccination sites, I ran into so many of my former HOSA students who are now in college nursing programs, or came in for their vaccinations and just wanted to help. And of course, I heard many heartbreaking stories from families as well. Just being part of this WCHD team as a volunteer, and talking with all the people, has been absolutely amazing.”
“A big THANK YOU goes out from our Board of Health and Health Department staff to all our volunteers,” said WCHD Vaccine Coordinator Cindy Jackson. “Without all of them, we would not have 331,246 residents fully vaccinated, and would not have been able to administer 685,007 doses of COVID vaccine to county residents. This happened due to amazing volunteer response, as well as assistance from our student nurses.”
For more on WCHD COVID-19 vaccination efforts, go to https://willcountyhealth.org/vaccine-locations/.
For more on becoming a volunteer through the WCHD MRC, please go to https://willcountyhealth.org/emergency-preparedness/.