Nursing students provide helping hand with COVID-19 vaccines

FORT KENT, Maine — University of Maine at Fort Kent nursing students are gaining valuable experience while helping the community by administering COVID-19 vaccines in the area. 

Gilman Pelletier of Fort Kent received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Thursday, April 1, at Fish River Rural Health. 

The 69-year-old was accompanied by his wife, Denise Pelletier, who received the vaccine a few days prior. 

Junior nursing student Kaela Godwin administered Gilman Pelletier’s vaccine under the supervision of UMFK clinical instructor Larry Nadeau Jr. 

“I was nervous at first but you get the hang of it,” Godwin said. “I’m happy to do my part to fight the virus and learn at the same time.” 

Godwin, 24, of Sanford said she has wanted to become a nurse since she was 5 years old.

“My dad went in for surgery at Maine Medical Center and I was very upset,” she said. “A nurse came out and looked at me at my eye level and said maybe someday you can help someone’s dad feel better too.’ She gave me a teddy bear. I still have it.”  

University of Maine at Fort Kent nursing student Kaela Godwin administers a COVID-19 vaccine to at Fish River Rural Health in Fort Kent. Also pictured are Larry Nadeau Jr. and  Valerine Nkongho. (Jessica Potila | St. John Valley Times)

About 72 UMFK nursing students have participated in vaccine clinics at Fish River Rural Health and Northern Maine Medical Center, Nadeau said.

“This is a great opportunity for students to practice their skills learned in Adult Health I and II labs,” Nadeau said. “The facilities were very happy to have the students helping out. We assisted with approximately 12 different clinics between the two facilities during the months of March and April ,and the students vaccinated over 1,000 patients in that time.”

Nadeau prepared the students by teaching them injection skills on mannequins at the UMFK nursing lab and then demonstrated the technique with their first few patients at the start of the vaccine clinic. 

“The students had a lot of hands-on experience and it gave the hospital and Fish River Rural Health extra hands,” Nadeau said. 

Fish River Rural Health Executive Director Heather Pelletier agrees that the collaboration benefits everyone.

“Fish River Rural Health has an existing collaborative agreement with UMFK, in which we welcome UMFK students for health care precept opportunities at our clinics,” Pelletier said. “It was a natural inquiry to talk with UMFK Nursing Division about a mutual arrangement to increase our vaccination bandwidth and offer supervised nursing experience during FRRH COVID vaccine clinics. UMFK nursing students were very well prepared and fit right in with FRRH personnel.” 

The Pelletiers are both relieved to have been vaccinated, and said the nursing students did just fine. 

“We’ve got two grandchildren and we want to make sure that they’re safe. Plus it’s good for us to be protected,” Gilman Pelletier said. “The more people take the shots the more we come back to our original way of living.”

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