UIC students answer volunteer call to vaccinate Chicago community

When the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine arrived at UIC, students and faculty were more than ready to volunteer in its delivery to the campus and Chicago community. 

“If my volunteering can help get us back to normal and be safe, I’m happy to speed up the process,” said Inesa Tshagharyan, a fourth-year UIC dental student. “This is a great experience for everyone to be a part of history.” 

Dentistry student Inesa Tshagharyan administers COVID-19 vaccinations at the Credit Union 1 Arena on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, at the University of Illinois Chicago. (Joshua Clark/University of Illinois Chicago)

Tshagharyan is one of the hundreds of students and faculty who have helped to fill volunteer shifts at UIC’s Credit Union 1 Arena and at UIC’s UI Health Employee Health clinic. With plans to vaccinate 1,000 people a day at the arena and hundreds more at the UI Health clinic, the need for volunteers is great. 

“The response to helping at Credit Union 1 Arena has been incredible. We have had students from every level of education and staff and faculty across the health sciences colleges respond to our call for help. This is after we have staffed the UI Health clinic for the past month with volunteers,” said Virginia Reising, UIC Nursing clinical assistant professor and co-coordinator of the volunteer effort. 

“What’s most awe-inspiring to me about our students is that, even though they have complicated lives and are incredibly busy, they’re still finding time to come in and do this. That’s what blows me away,” Reising said. 

Students from the colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy are administering the vaccine and have received special training in handling and delivering the shot. Students from all UIC schools and majors are volunteering to welcome and register people, assemble information packets and work with site logistics. 

The numbers so far include: 

  • 575 volunteer time slots filled.
  • 3,450 volunteer hours committed to Credit Union 1 Arena. 
  • 45 volunteers per day at the Credit Union 1 Arena. 
  • 11 student volunteers per day at the UI Health clinic at the College of Pharmacy. 
  • Over 25,000 immunizations delivered since Dec. 18, 2020. 

For some nursing students, volunteering has given them valuable clinical experience they would not have otherwise had because COVID-19 restrictions have canceled some of their practicum hours. But for many students, the experience is more than an opportunity to practice their skills. 

“It’s just something that is very important to me because I feel like I’m connecting more with health workers and seeing things through their perspective. I just love it,” said Jasmine Medina, a junior in the nursing bachelor’s degree program.  

Volunteering has also given students from across colleges a chance to work together toward a common goal, as well as a chance to work in the community. 

“Volunteering was fun. I was happy to see the patients and they were all so excited and happy to finally be getting the vaccine,” said Ellie Park, a fourth-year dental student.  

Vaccinators said that many patients have been very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about receiving the vaccine. Some even brought treats for their vaccinators.

“You have people thanking you, acknowledging that your help makes a difference,” said Lovel Espino, an RN and a student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. “It brings me pride and joy that I’m a nurse.” 

UIC faculty, staff and students who are interested in volunteering, visit this link. Others who are interested may visit this link for more information about volunteering.  See the full schedule of Black History Month events

(Deborah Ziff Soriano contributed to this story)  

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