Students of Paris Junior College had readily taken the opportunity to step up and help in the Paris and Lamar County COVID-19 vaccination effort begun in late January. A majority of students in the PJC nursing programs were joined by students in the emergency medical services program, nursing and EMS faculty, and faculty and staff from PJC to assist in getting hundreds of people vaccinated over two Fridays at the Hunt Center.
“Those of us at PJC are so glad to be able to share our resources with the residents of Lamar County through our partnership with the Health Department, City of Paris and Lamar County,” said Pam Anglin, PJC President. “This partnership shows the magnitude of what we can do in Lamar County when we all work together. College employees have been readily volunteering their time on Fridays along-side of our nursing students to help vaccinate our community and are appreciative of the opportunity to play a role in this huge vaccination effort and to be able to bring joy and hope to so many. Our Maintenance Department, Campus Police, faculty, staff and students play a part in making this happen. The vaccination clinics are days when you work hard and then go home at the end of the day very proud of what has been accomplished.”
Volunteers arrived early Friday, Jan. 29 as they had the previous week to set intake stations for people with appointments, as well as to give them their shots. Prior to opening to the public, Paris-Lamar County Health Department Executive Director Gina Prestridge spoke with the volunteers, thanking them for being there to help.
“This is a huge public health initiative,” said Prestridge. “Twenty years from now, you’re going to be able to say, ‘Remember that pandemic? I was essential in immunizing people against COVID-19.’ This is going to be an awesome thing for you guys to experience.”
Prestridge said that 428 shots were given the previous Friday, and 630 were on the schedule for Friday. Volunteers were told that it was important that those receiving their shots brought their phone number with them as the previous Friday it was found that some individuals couldn’t remember their number, making it difficult to set up appointments for the second-round vaccinations.
PJC students and faculty were pleased with the effort.
“This is monumental experience for our students as COVID prevented them from participating in their clinicals last year,” said PJC Director of Nursing Rebbecca Harris. “These are our COVID students. This is helping them catch up, giving them their personal interaction and absolutely helping them with their people skills. The community is loving them. They’re getting to work with physicians and expert nurses with the health department, increasing their inter-professional experiences and honing in on their skills.”
“I enjoyed it,” said Amanda Bruce of Commerce, a student in the PJC associate degree nursing program. “I was proud and I felt humbled to be able to do that for people and them be so appreciative and happy about it. They were very happy to see the student involvement. And I felt like it was very organized the flow was great, the health department did a great job at organizing everything.”
The feeling was mutual.
“This is a wonderful partnership,” said Prestridge. “We wouldn’t be able to make it without these students, so we’re grateful to be in partnership with PJC and they’ve done an excellent job. They’re super organized, the nursing program is incredible and it takes this kind of partnership to make it happen, so we’re thankful.”
The cooperative effort goes further than the vaccination clinics. The Paris-Lamar County Health District, City of Paris EMS and Fire Department, PJC, and Lamar County are working together to try to have Lamar County designated as a vaccination hub.
Sign up for the COVID-19 vaccination online at https://form.jotform.com/210164434756151, or call 903-737-4167 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon.
Those interested in the nursing programs at Paris Junior College may learn more by calling 903-782-0734. The licensed vocational nursing program is currently taking applications for classes starting this summer.
IMG 9916: Paris-Lamar County Health Department Executive Director Gina Prestridge speaks with those staffing the check-in station in the PJC Hunt Center.
IMG 9925: PJC Director of Nursing Rebbecca Harris reviews procedures with PJC students and faculty and other volunteers before opening to the public on Friday.
IMG 9930: PJC nursing students bundled vaccination shots for distribution to volunteer stations in the Hunt Center.
IMG 9943: PJC English Instructors Carey Gable and Dr. Jennifer Collar joined with PJC nursing students to work the first station checking people in for their vaccination appointments at the Hunt Center.
IMG 9947: Retired PJC Nursing Instructor Judith Baxley joined associate degree nursing student Justice Floyd of Sulphur Springs to work one of the stations in the Hunt Center.
IMG 9952: Volunteers became very busy once the doors opened to those with vaccine appointments.
IMG 9954: Vaccination stations were ready at the far end of the Hunt Center as the doors opened, with empty chairs waiting to seat patients after they were checked in.
IMG 9955: A line of those with vaccination appointments had formed in the chill outside the Hunt Center before doors opened Friday at 8:00 a.m.