Four-hundred Trenton residents will be vaccinated today, Wednesday, February 3, 2021, with the help of staff and students from Thomas Edison State University’s (TESU) W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing. The university will be assisting the New Jersey State Department of Health (NJ-DOH) and the City of Trenton’s Public Health Officer, Yvette Graffie-Cooper, in vaccinating Trenton area residents who have been prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

Between 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., residents will line up at the Trenton Fire Department located at 244 Perry Street for their turn to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Nursing program students and staff are being trained to assist with the expected surge on Wednesday after numerous appointments were rescheduled from Monday and Tuesday, February 1 and 2, due to the recent winter storm.

“The mayor [Mayor Reed Gusciora] reached out to Thomas Edison over the weekend…for help, for volunteers, to help with the vaccinations,” said Dr. Lia van Rijswijk, DNP, RN, CWCN, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs at the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing, “and of course, Thomas Edison has real deep roots in the community, and if we can help, we’re here. We’re part of the Trenton community; the whole university is as is the School of Nursing.”

The TESU Nursing students are enrolled in a 15-month full-time hybrid execrated nursing program that prepares them to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. The students came into the program already possessing non-nursing bachelor’s degrees and each has made the bold decision to become an RN during a global pandemic.

According to Dr. van Rijswijk, 10 students and three faculty members have volunteered their time to helping the community today. In this fairly small and intensive program, 13 volunteers is a fair amount of help on such short notice.

“They are taking 16 credits right now, and they’re gonna spend the day [administering vaccines],” said Dr. van Rijswijk. “I think that’s totally awesome.” TESU is a university for adults, as the doctor points out. A large portion of their student body is older and juggles not just education, but full-time jobs and families.

“For most of our students, this is a second career,” she said. “It’s not your typical nursing student who goes to a four year program. So, I’m very grateful that they can volunteer for a day because they have children [and] they have families.”

The TESU volunteers spent Monday and Tuesday preparing for today’s vaccines. Virtually, the students and faculty went over the guidelines and modules the CDC provided on the differences in points of dispersion (POD) and the specifics involved with administering the Moderna vaccine.

Although the initiative was sudden for TESU nursing students, these unexpected calls for help are something nursing students train for when pursuing their degree. “My background is in public health, I’ve been there a long time and these are the scenarios that we used to prepare for and practice,” said Dr. van Rijswijk. “I still have the propensity to call it a drill, but I’m like, ‘no, this is not a drill. This is a real thing.’ This is what we’ve been practicing for 20 years ago.”

She continued, “As super messy as things have been with COVID… because of the constantly changing picture, in terms of the number of hospitalizations, COVID positive patients and all the testing students have to do themselves, but by the time they graduate, they’re ready to roll because they learn to be super flexible. It takes not just a village, but in this case, a whole city to make this happen.”

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