For licensed vocational nursing student Majida Elmellah, it doesn’t get much better than this. In need of clinical hours to graduate this spring, the Unitek College student also helped save lives in working with Futuro Health at the Moscone COVID-19 vaccination center.
“It was an amazing experience,” Elmellah said. “It was very well organized, well managed, and involved great teamwork. Most of all, from what I could see, the patients were very pleased.”
This graduation season, students like Elmellah across the state of California faced a delay in earning a degree because of the pandemic disrupting access to clinical hours needed for graduation. For hundreds of students in Northern California, however, the opportunity to volunteer with Futuro Health at the Moscone vaccination center gave the opportunity to earn experience that has made a spring 2021 graduation possible.
“Not only were we able to contribute to widespread vaccination efforts in San Francisco, but the students who joined us from College of San Mateo, Unitek College, and Quest Nursing all gained the clinical, hands-on experience needed to fulfill their graduation and licensing requirements,” said Debbie Yaddow, Futuro Health’s Senior Director of Pathway Development. “Best of all, these students accrued over 7,500 clinical hours at no-cost.”
The pandemic formed a catch-22 for allied health students: there is a national shortage of allied healthcare workers, but students have not been able to graduate and enter the workforce because of the pandemic’s impact on access to clinical hours. In particular, California has a looming demand for approximately 500,000 new allied healthcare workers by 2024. This daunting gap is precisely why Futuro Health has made a commitment to graduate 10,000 new licensed and/or credentialed allied healthcare workers by 2024 and also committed to assisting with staffing the Moscone vaccination center.
“This unique, collaborative endeavor shows how we can provide patients with high-quality care while helping to move students toward fulfilling, in-demand careers,” said Tom Hanenburg, senior vice president of Kaiser Permanente Hospital System Operations.
The Campaign consortium, initiated by Kaiser Permanente, included Adventist Health, the California Medical Association, Dignity Health, and Futuro Health. Over the course of eight weeks, Futuro Health staffed the Moscone vaccination center Pod L, the accessibility pod, with 387 workers who covered 4,350 shifts and volunteered 25,500 hours. When combined with the consortium’s efforts at Cal Poly, Stockton, and Bakersfield, 677,100 vaccines were given to both the general public and Kaiser Permanente members.
“The opportunity provided for the students at Futuro Health was amazing,” said Julie Withrington RN, BSN, CCRN, NNEB, Professor of Nursing at the College of San Mateo. “The students were able to become part of a huge public health initiative while gaining direct clinical hours administering vaccines to the local community in San Francisco. The student body at College of San Mateo is incredibly diverse and many of the students are fluent in other languages. The students were able to utilize their language skills putting patients at ease addressing their concerns related to the COVID vaccine while providing quality care.”
While Futuro Health’s agile response helped on a broad level by vaccinating community members and providing students with much needed clinical hours, it also proved to be a deeply personal experience for students and faculty volunteers alike.
“This clinical experience has made me feel like I have finally entered the clinical learning environment where I begin to experience the way multiple disciplines work together to care for the patients,” said Unitek College student Marizelle Ochoa. “I like to say thank you for giving us this great learning opportunity.”
Cheyenne Vennarucci, a registered nurse who volunteered at the Moscone Center, concurs. “Participating in the Futuro Health/Kaiser Moscone mass vaccination clinic has been one of the greatest privileges of my career. Getting to be a part of history, in such a monumental way, has truly been a wonderful opportunity for me. In addition to making history, I was able to work with the nursing students of my alma mater as well as several other nursing students. It was an honor to give back and help train the next generation of nurses to come out and join us on the frontlines. It is something I will always treasure and be so proud to have been a part of.”