Thomas Edison nursing students, staff help Trenton in time of vaccine crisis

Talk about real-time and real-life training.

Trenton health officials — in desperate need of assistance administering vaccines after weather delayed their shipment to New Jersey last week — turned to Thomas Edison State University’s W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing staff and students for help.

The students proved to be up to the task, said Yvette Graffie-Cooper, the public health officer for the city of Trenton.

“It was a communal effort, to be sure, and a lot of scrambling in the 48 hours leading up, but the system ran flawlessly once it fell into place,” she said. “The vaccine, which had been in transit to the Trenton Fire Department’s Perry Street location, was stalled in Kentucky during the winter storm, but we managed to receive the 400 doses needed from St. Francis Medical Center an hour and a half before the first recipients began lining up for their doses on Wednesday.”

Graffie-Cooper, Trenton Department of Health personnel, Trenton EMS, Trenton Office of Emergency Management and Trenton-based internist Philip Bonaparte, along with Thomas Edison State University and Mercer County Community College nursing program students, instructors and deans, all fell in line.

Those who volunteered in the effort helped to shepherd hundreds of community members through the process of receiving the first of two Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The event was part of a larger initiative by the New Jersey Department of Health.

Dr. Phyllis Marshall, dean of the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing, said the school was glad to help.

“Our school is deeply committed and connected to the city of Trenton, and to its health care and social service institutions,” she said. “When the call came in to help with the effort, we instantly and eagerly mobilized our staff and students.”

TESU students administering the vaccines Wednesday are enrolled in the school’s full-time hybrid Accelerated BSN Program. Students enrolled in the program — notable for its high NCLEX pass rates — remain focused on their courses and clinical experiences during the 12-month academic sprint, Marshall said.

“Those enrolled in the program have made the bold decision to become nurses during a global pandemic; as a result, they represent an extraordinary group of nurse professionals who will enter the local health care field,” she said. “This is an ongoing effort, and we will continue to collaborate with the city in rotating students through the vaccination program as the statewide rollout continues.

“The entire community benefits from this ongoing relationship. Our students and the university have the opportunity to play a vital role in this remarkable public health initiative for the residents of Trenton.”