Jodie Perry and Joy Green were the first Public Health Nurses to participate in Western Health’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“This is the most powerful and rewarding experience I have ever encountered,” says Perry, a 2001 graduate of Western Regional School of Nursing (WRSON). “As Public Health Nurses, we reach different members of our community, from young families to senior citizens. We see firsthand how this pandemic is impacting everyone, and what a world without public health and vaccines looks like. This past year has shown us what is truly important in life.”
“I could not be any prouder to be a Public Health Nurse working during this pandemic,” says Joy Green, a 2009 WRSON graduate. “We didn’t know what to expect when we agreed to be the first Public Health Nurses to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021. We were nervous at the beginning, but as the days moved on, and we saw how happy people were to receive the vaccine, it made the hard work worthwhile.
“The positive energy in the room every day was incredible,” adds Green, who started her career in Public Health in 2017. “Everyone was happy, excited, and relieved to be getting their long-awaited vaccine. They were taking pictures, laughing, and thanking everyone. We worked hard, and we were exhausted at times, but we were proud to be a part of this amazing and important work.”
COVID-19 vaccine clinics are different from other mass vaccination clinics. Public Health Nurses are involved in overall public health efforts, including assessments, swabbing, research, education, and contact tracing. Between January and March 2021, Public Health Nurses administered vaccines to hundreds of residents at clinics throughout the western region.
“There is a lot involved beyond the needle, and we think people would be surprised if they saw how much work happens, from the delivery of vaccine to our sites, the physical set up of clinics, ordering supplies, and countless hours of planning,” says Perry, a Public Health Nurse in Meadows. “These clinics are possible because of many people working together.”
The Public Health Team is supported by other Western Health departments – facilities, environmental services, employee health, communicable disease, administrative support, security, long term and acute care teams.
“We are very proud to be involved in the greater plan to end this global pandemic,” Perry says.
Fourth-year nursing students interning with Public Health as part of their preceptorship are gaining valuable experience at the clinic. “Students are able to observe, assist, and then administer the vaccine. They quickly realize they are part of something special, a once in a lifetime experience,” Perry says.
The Public Health Nurses offer advice for those considering a career in Public Health. “Embrace the challenge, be compassionate, and hard working,” says Green, who is based in Corner Brook. “Public Health Nursing is very rewarding. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that happens to keep our clients and communities healthy.”
The payout for the hard work is evident at clinics ongoing in the western region. “Everyone has been relieved thus far to receive their vaccine, not only for themselves but for their colleagues, clients, residents, family, and friends,” Green adds. “People had tears of joy and walked away forever grateful and proud.”
Public Health Nurses talk to individuals about the COVID-19 vaccine. They stress the importance of getting vaccinated and assure people the research is knowledgeable and trustworthy. Along with following public health measures and washing their hands, the nurses say vaccine is the pathway to a new normal.
“Fear and anxiety are normal in challenging times,” Perry says. “There is more to do, but with our amazing Public Health Team we feel privileged, prepared, and ready to continue the fight against COVID-19.”
Written by: Kayla Brake, Community Health Manager