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Lehigh Carbon Community College

Heroes Study Here

By Shane Baglini and Jill Yapsuga

“Heroes work here” has been a common refrain during the COVID-19 pandemic. The phrase evokes images of extreme courage, bravery and service. At Lehigh Carbon Community College, the phrase “Heroes study here” is more applicable in 2021. Through a partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network, in place of the typical clinical experience LCCC nursing students are exposed to, nursing students were given the opportunity to take part in the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics at SLUHN’s Miner’s and Lehighton facilities.

“We have not been in person for a very long time,” said Trenace Caserta, clinical nursing instructor at LCCC. “So we got in contact with St. Luke’s Miner’s and Lehighton about their vaccine clinics, and we made the decision to make that available for our students’ in-person clinical experiences.”

In all, five students ran the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Lehighton Campus. “Hospital staff basically supervised, and I would oversee what the students were doing. They did an amazing job,” said Caserta.

Tonya Palmer, a returning adult learner, already had experience administering vaccines in her prior career, however she never anticipated the opportunity to be a part of history. “We were presented the opportunity, and it seemed like a really nice fit. Personally I had been doing vaccination clinics, but this was a very different procedure. The students have really been running the clinics at those locations.”

Kristyna Keifer reflected on the gravity of taking part in this process. “I just thought, ‘They get to see their grandchildren now.’ To be able to see them have that sigh of relief about getting life back to normal as best we can, I’m thankful we were presented with this opportunity.”

For Keifer, it was a pleasant surprise when she found herself attending online classes from home at the same time as her young son. While the pandemic has been difficult for young children, Keifer’s son seems to understand the important role his mother is playing in combating the virus. She notes, “I don’t think he totally understands, but he sees me making an impact. He’d say, ‘Mommy, I want to be a nurse just like you.’”

Brittany Doughty has worked in the St. Luke’s emergency department for several years prior to her time at LCCC. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but working directly with nurses every day put me on this path,” said Doughty. “My number one thing is helping people, and I had a passion for nursing, but I was so nervous to take the leap to apply.”

Doughty said she wasn’t expecting to experience the clinic the way she did. “It was amazing, especially because I was personally hesitant about it, but the more I learned, and the more people thanked me for just doing it, I realized how grateful people would be to get the vaccine.”

“It was an incredibly rewarding situation, because you know how many hundreds of people’s lives you impacted in a particular day,” said Palmer. “It’s extremely emotional. There have been many people who were nervous, and to see the relief come over them in that moment is truly overwhelming.”

“I can’t change the world, but if I can make one person’s day better, that makes me happy,” said Keifer.

Lehigh Carbon Community College is proud to say, “Heroes study here.” The example set by these five students is indicative of the college’s 55th anniversary theme of “Together.” It has truly never been so important to be together, while at the same time being so difficult to do so.

“I am so proud of them,” said Caserta. “I am so proud of how they got in there and just ran with it. They made history, and they are making history every day.”