Answering the Call: Nursing Students Step Up in COVID-19 Response

Emily Barrett, assistant director of communications
Nursing student prepares an immunization in a clinical setting.
Nursing seniors like Gabrielle Smyser '21 are giving COVID-19 immunizations at local sites in Delaware County as part of a clinical requirement this semester.

As the COVID-19 pandemic remains a top concern in communities across the country, Widener nursing students are rising to the challenge to bolster depleted health care staff and assist with local vaccinations and patient-care efforts. 

Gabrielle Smyser is one of nearly 100 nursing seniors who are being assigned to local COVID-19 immunization sites to help administer the high-demand vaccine.

“Being a senior in the middle of a global pandemic was never something that I would have ever imagined, but here we are. We’re taught as nurses to be flexible and that’s what we’re doing,” said Smyser. 

Smyser and her classmates, including senior Jake Mergott, will be trained to administer the vaccine at locations across Delaware County as part of the clinical requirement for the population health course taught by Karen May. Mergott has already begun working at nearby Crozer-Chester Medical Center providing auxiliary support and direct patient care.

“This a great experience for us before we go into the real world and it proves that nurses have to be so adaptable…and that nurses are needed at all times,” said Mergott.

Nursing students aren’t new to local COVID-19 response efforts. Last semester, students staffed local

Jake Mergott poses in front of Founders Hall.
Jake Mergott '21 (photo taken pre-pandemic).

testing sites as health care systems were overwhelmed with the high demand in testing. The pandemic response scenario, according to Mergott, brings classroom lessons to life.

“I think it’s cool that I’ve been a part of this class at this time because it’s the perfect example of stepping up for the community,” said Mergott.

“Students are providing care to the community they have been a part of for the last four years,” said Karen May, assistant professor. “Patients are so happy to see our students and are thankful that the community is able to receive the vaccine.”

Female nursing student monitors patients remotely on a computer screen.
Siegfried supported hospital staff caring for COVID-19 patients using remote patient monitoring software.

As seniors are being dispatched out into the community, junior Kendra Siegfried is doing her part to contribute as well. 

Siegfried joined nursing students from other colleges and universities to staff the virtual response center at St. Luke’s University Health Network. The innovative, cloud-based patient management system was first introduced across the health network last year to help clinicians care for patients remotely in hospital and non-traditional settings, such as overflow units.

Over winter break, Siegfried was trained as a COVID-19 monitoring technician responsible for coordinating with staff nurses across the health system, to provide updates on patient vitals and any changes in patient conditions. 

“This job made me very eager to get out into the work force and put my knowledge and skills to the test just because I do want to help out in this global pandemic any way possible, and I was very fortunate to help now,” said Siegfried.

The significance of the experience isn’t lost on Mergott, who is also eager to move into his nursing career.

“I’m really excited to be in this field because we get to do so many things to help other people,” said Mergott. “Whether that be screening, all the way to direct care to patients with COVID, I think it’s really awesome that we’re able to be a part of history.”

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