AMESBURY — Some work in schools, others in hospitals. Some are retired, while others are just starting out in their careers. But the nurses of the Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative all have one thing in common: they are passionate about helping their friends and neighbors through this ongoing pandemic.
West Newbury Public Health Nurse Diane Dardeno, who also serves as a Nurse Manager for the LMVRC, said the nurses are as integral a part of the clinic as anyone. Not only are they the ones physically putting needles into arms, but their medical expertise proves invaluable when patients have questions, share concerns, or simply need a calming presence while receiving their vaccine.
A total of 79 nurses, nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists have worked the clinic since it began earlier this year, with many choosing to come back each and every weekend. They come from a variety of workplace settings (primary care, home health, hospital, local school districts) and live locally from towns such as Merrimac, West Newbury, Newbury, Byfield, Rowley, Georgetown, Haverhill, Groveland, Topsfield, Newburyport, Salisbury and Amesbury.
“The biggest thing is that none of these nurses treat this clinic like it’s a job or a responsibility. They all want to be here. It’s a chance for them to help out their community in a very special and unique way, and there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing,” Dardeno said. “For them to know that they are vaccinating their neighbors, the people who live and work in their communities, that makes it all the more meaningful to them.”
Dardeno said the clinic staff are constantly reviewing each clinic session to figure out what they can improve on for the following week. This past weekend, April 10-11, was the first time two separate sides were run at the clinic, one for the multi-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and one for the single-shot Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It added an extra wrinkle to the operation, but it went off without a hitch.
“With so much going on, and so many moving parts that you need to take into account, it would be very easy for things to get out of control,” Dardeno said. “But everyone knows their role and we’re all in this together. There is a real sense of community and teamwork. And it shows with each nurse who works here, how they treat each patient as if they were a member of their own family.”
The clinic has, to date, distributed more than 15,000 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines, including more than 4,000 this past weekend (2,057 on Saturday and 2,033 on Sunday).
Maureen Swartzentruber, a registered nurse who works at Philips Academy in Andover, said she worked the overnight shift at the school on Friday, but still arrived at the clinic in time for her 8:30 a.m. shift Saturday morning.
“This is just a well-oiled machine. There’s no other way to describe it,” Swartzentruber said. “None of us are here because we have to be. We all have other things we could be doing, but this is where we want to be, helping our community however we can. It’s a collaborative effort, from the people directing traffic to the student volunteers to the managers running the show. I’m just proud to be one of the nurses doing my part to make it all work.”
As more and more people have become eligible to receive their vaccine, the number of those getting vaccinated at the clinic has grown as well. One of the people getting their first of two Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this past Saturday was State Sen. Bruce Tarr, who along with State Sen. Diana DiZoglio, also toured the clinic to see how things operate both in the main vaccination room and behind the scenes.
“The number of people they are able to vaccinate is incredible, but what’s more impressive is how smoothly and efficiently it all runs,” Sen. Tarr said. “This really should be a model for how such a clinic should operate.”
Sens. Tarr and DiZoglio spoke with many nurses and nurse managers during the tour, as well as volunteers and clinic managers. They saw several areas of the clinic, including the the vaccine prep room, observation lounge, wheelchair accessibility entrance and more.
“It’s remarkable to see so many people all working together for the good of their community,” Sen. DiZoglio said. “Everyone who is a part of this clinic should be incredibly proud of the work they are doing. Our public health officials, first responders, student volunteers and more have all shown what locally-run vaccinations clinics are capable of, and I am proud to represent such dedicated communities.”
Nurses and staff who have worked at the clinic thus far include the following:
Cynthia Alrich, Carolyn Amato, Judy Anderson , Kim Arsenault, Cara Bailey, Kathy Becker, Eileen Bernau, Jean Bernhardt, Peg Bleier, Susan Boudreau, Ann Brady-Lozier, Kimberley Brien, Dawn Burke, Hannah Cartagena, Cathleen Chadwick, Keri Ciofolo , Kelly Combs, Sarah Comora, Susan Cross-Skinner, Diane Dardeno, Ashley Davis, Careyanne Davis, Holly Dellea, Mary Beth Doherty, Amanda Durand, Cynthia Fiore, Karen Foley, Deborrah Gallegos-Petersen, Frances Gerroir, Carol Greene, Matilda Halloran , Beverly Heinze-Lacey, Vivien Hesselton , Kathleen Hostetter, Debra Johnson, Skylar Jones, Kristin Jovilet, Heidi Kelleher, David Kelleher, Amy Knowlton, Tina LaCourse, Jenifer Lader, Monique Landry, Ira Lanik, Nancy Lauricella, Marianne Lucey, Courtney Lucey, Kristen Lynch, Nadine Marcheterre, Ann McKay, Terri Meekins, Christina Mikolop, Patty Moynihan, Gene Muise, Carly Murphy, Charelle Nightingale, Alberta Nutile, Rita O’Neill, Emily Olmstead, Jeana Ortega, Lauren Petty, Jamie Pinkham, Jennifer Pollard, Pam Polombo, Kimberly Putney, Josette Renda , Kim Richards, Anne Rundle, Terri Russell, Linda Samler, Alison Sekelsky, Liz Shorter, Heather Shupenko, Claudia Small, Diane Stowe-Cohn, Maureen Swartzentruber, Krysten Todd, Shanyn Toulouse, Ashley Waddell, Evelyn Weiss, June Witham-Clark, Carolina Zaneski.
The Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative comprises Amesbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury, Newburyport, Rowley, Salisbury and West Newbury.
JGPR is providing communications services to this effort on a pro bono basis.
LYNCH: “I’ve never once seen a disgruntled patient leave this clinic, and that says a lot. I helped work swine flu clinics about ten years ago, but to see something of this magnitude is remarkable. Despite how much bigger and complicated these clinics are, there is never any confusion. If I have an issue or question I know I have a go-to person who can help me, and to have that kind of support makes it so much easier for us to be able to do our jobs.”
TWOMEY: “I’m just proud to be able to help my community. We all want to get as many vaccines to as many people as we can, and it takes a team effort to do that.”
Margaret Lobo, of West Newbury, said she enjoys coming back to the clinic each week to help vaccinate her friends and neighbors. (Photo Courtesy Lower Merrimack Valley Regional Collaborative)
LOBO: “I’m so impressed by the tremendous effort that goes into making the clinic run so smoothly. I’m excited to come back each and every week. The effort that goes into it is incredible, and there is a real sense of pride in what we’re doing. People feel safe, and people trust that we have their best interests at heart.”
PUTNEY: “I’ve seen firsthand how much more confident local teachers feel after having received the vaccine, as well as how much safer the elderly population in town feels. It means a lot to be a part of that. I’ve been here from the beginning and I’ll be here through to the end. I’m just so proud of the work we are all doing.”
BURKE: “I’m just so impressed with the leadership and organization of this clinic. Every week it seems to grow and evolve, but there are never any issues. The number of vaccines given out is enormous, but everything runs so smoothly. Each shot into an arm is one step closer to returning to normal for our community, and I’m so proud to be a part of that.”
LANDRY: “It’s amazing to see so many parents, residents and community members all come together for one terrific cause. Everyone here wants to help in whatever way they can. This is really what can happen when local people work as one for the greater good.”
NUTILE: “It’s so meaningful to do this. We need to control the virus. We’ll still need to maintain distance and wear masks. The vaccine is not a guarantee. We still need to take precautions.”
BECKER: “It is so great to get this done. This clinic is easy, fast and efficient. Everyone wants to get to where they were to see their loved ones and start socializing again.”