January 31, 2021

It’s not every day the work one does becomes a part of history. But for Stanislaus State nursing student Katherine Vanderbroeke and 11 of her peers, two recent afternoons they spent at Stan State’s Fitzpatrick Arena were historic. And life changing.  

The School of Nursing students provided logistical support for a Stanislaus County Health Services Agency (HSA) COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Fitzpatrick Arena. The public health agency has engaged with several locations throughout the county to set up clinics where they are administering the vaccine under the current rollout. 

“Everybody jumped at the opportunity to make a difference,” said Mary Jo Stanley, director of Stan State’s School of Nursing. 

A Jan. 18 practice run served as preparation for the Jan. 21 clinic, where the county administered more than 1,000 vaccinations. Under the guidance of faculty, nursing students rotated through different roles on both days. They collected health information, helped complete forms, administered vaccinations and monitored patients for allergic reactions.   

During the practice run, nursing students vaccinated each other and were able to get a feel for how the clinic would operate with patients the following day.  

On the clinic’s opening day, “we were there for seven straight hours,” Stanley said. “There was no downtime. 

“Some of the population in attendance were quite frail and needed attention and extra assistance. The students took their time. Sometimes people wanted to tell a story — they hadn’t been out in months, and they were scared to be there. It was a big deal for people and our students helped and listened to them.” 

Vanderbroeke, a fourth-semester student from Stockton, administered about 75 vaccinations. 

“I’ve done a few during clinical, but this was my first time vaccinating individuals on a mass scale,” she said. 

For nursing student Maria Mendicino of Tracy, it was her first time administering a vaccine.  

“I’d never done it on a real person so it was a good experience,” Mendicino said. “I got really good feedback from patients. It was also a good way to get a base of experience before we actually start taking care of severely ill patients.”  

Third-semester nursing student Blanca Gonzalez of Modesto said it felt wonderful to help members of the community, especially Spanish-speaking participants.  

“I speak Spanish, so I was able to help translate information and ease their worries and concerns,” she said. “Sometimes there aren’t interpreters at the hospital or clinic and patients’ questions go unanswered. I was grateful to help.”  

Gonzalez said getting hands-on experience is invaluable. 

“I know I’m going to look back on this day and say that I was able to be on the front lines,” she said. “I wasn’t just learning theory from a textbook. I actually came here and used my hands and knowledge that I’ve learned from my great professors and applied it.”  

Vanderbroeke said being able to help in the fight against COVID-19 is fulfilling.  

“For me, it’s a really important thing to get out and support our community,” she said. “Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 during these times is so important.  

“I love that I get to be a part of the history that’s being made and to be a part of the solution to this pandemic is important. It fills my heart with joy to know that I brought a sense of peace to people in this community.”  

Her time in the nursing program has also helped her become more confident. 

“This is an amazing program. I have so much more in me than I realize,” she said. “I used to hate talking to people. But once I entered the nursing program that changed. I started getting out into the community and talked to so many people who have amazing stories to share and so much hope.” 

Stanley said the students understand the importance of the work they’re doing. 

“The students realize they are taking care of their community and the impact of helping the community means we help each other,” Stanley said. “I don't think you can bring this home any other way than to participate in an event like this. 

“I’m so proud to work with the faculty and our students. Honestly, they rise to the occasion. Our students were professionals in their delivery of healthcare,” Stanley said. “I am proud of everyone's efforts, and I know we will continue to meet the needs of public health as long as they need us.”