Auburn University Student Nurse Helps Administer Coronavirus Vaccines

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By Kate Sitarz
Last updated on August 10, 2023

When Peace decided to attend Auburn University to become a nurse, she had no idea she would administer the coronavirus vaccine to the Auburn community before graduating.

PeaceNigeriaAuburn University

Peace, an international student from Nigeria at Auburn University, smiles for the camera against a professional gray backdrop

Peace is not a typical undergraduate studying in the United States. Before she joined the Auburn University Academic Accelerator Program, she had already earned two degrees from the University of Lagos in Nigeria: a bachelor’s degree in statistics and a master’s degree in public and international affairs. Becoming a nurse is the next step on her long-term goal of working for UNICEF.

Of course, she had no idea she would be administering coronavirus vaccines before graduation. 

Choosing Auburn University for Nursing

For Peace, finding the right nursing school started with climate. 

“I am from Nigeria, so I wanted to be someplace warm,” she says. At the time, her now-husband was living in New York. Peace knew she wanted to be far enough away so she could concentrate on school.

She also benefitted from a clear vision of how attending school in the United States would help her achieve her goals. Having worked for several years before deciding to return to school, Peace discovered her passion for health care after working as an operations manager for a women-only fitness center.

Becoming a registered nurse in primary care, or RNPC, is the next step toward her goal of combining nursing with her international relations background. Ultimately, she wants to work for UNICEF. 

“I need to be able to look at what is happening locally in Nigeria, see standards of health care in other developed countries, and bridge that gap,” she explains. “There are a lot of issues with health care, but I cannot help when I am in the mess. I needed to come out and get a better overview of what is going on.” 

With a nursing degree from Auburn, Peace believes she will be in a better position to help.

One Step Closer to Becoming a Nurse

Before Peace decided to pursue her nursing degree, her sister gave birth to a baby girl in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (or NICU), only to lose that child after three days. 

“Knowing what I know now, having seen NICUs,” she says, “that baby would have had a better chance.” 

As Peace begins her last two semesters of Auburn’s five-semester program, she is getting closer to the next step of her long-term plan, which was triggered by that personal event. 

“Before I came, I was pretty set on what I wanted to do,” she continues. “I built my journey to steer me in that direction.” And she does not want to waste a minute of time. 

After graduation, Peace plans to move back to New York where she hopes to find work in a cardiovascular ICU (intensive care unit). Then, she aims to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) before enrolling in a nurse practitioner’s program and, eventually, opening her own practice.

With that training and experience, Peace believes she will add value to UNICEF and help their mission. She specifically hopes to help reduce child morbidity and mortality rates. 

For students looking to study in the United States, Peace recommends doing research to determine what you want to do. She notes how valuable a program like Auburn Global was for her. For example, one semester she noticed a physics class on her schedule, but she knew she did not have to take physics for her program. Working with her advisor, she was able to switch classes, ensuring she stayed on track to meet her goals without wasting time or finances on a class that was not required. 

On a lighter note, while studying is important, “do not forget to have fun,” she adds. “Coming from a [developing] country like I did, you do everything you can to make it. You work hard. You get good grades. But you do not want to miss out on the community.”

(Speaking of fun, Peace admits that part of Auburn’s appeal were the school colors, which include her favorite: orange.)

She also recommends joining organizations, both to help keep an open mind and for your mental health

Administering the Coronavirus Vaccine at Auburn University

When the coronavirus temporarily shut down the university at the beginning of 2020, Peace was not sure what would happen with her clinical schedule. It became clear that the community would need the help of nursing students as more nurses became burned out. 

It was a hard time for Peace, personally, too. When she went to New York for spring break in 2020, she thought she would be returning to the Auburn University campus afterward. She had left her books and supplies behind. But when the campus shut down, it interrupted her normal routine, and her grades were affected.

“Getting a low grade, it makes you question what you are doing,” she says, reflecting on the difficult spring semester. “I felt like I was not where I was supposed to be.” She notes her faith and focus on her goal were critical to keeping her grounded. 

“Find something deeper than superficial goals,” she advises. Reminding herself why she was earning her nursing degree helped Peace get back on track and fight her uncertainty and self-doubt.

In the early months of 2021, clinical schedules were adjusted to send Peace and her fellow students to larger clinics to administer COVID-19 vaccines. “We were administering 300 to 400 shots each day,” she recalls. “I had a very, very large sense of gratitude and humility.” 

Even though her days were long, often starting at 7 a.m. and ending after 5 p.m., Peace says the work was gratifying. She recalls a patient who started crying after she gave her the shot. Knowing the woman would be in the waiting room for the 15-minute observation period, Peace went to find her. 

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, did that hurt?’ But when I asked her if she was OK, she told me her grandpa, grandma, and best friend had died of COVID.” The patient was simply relieved to be receiving the coronavirus vaccine.

That patient was the first of many to thank Peace. She even gave Sean Busenlener, the managing director of Auburn Global, his shot. 

“What are the odds?” laughs Peace, noting the sense of pride and worth that she feels being able to contribute to society and the Auburn community. “It was one of my top shot moments.”

While she is not administering vaccines at the moment, Peace and her fellow students may pitch in with the vaccination efforts in the fall. Auburn University recently opened COVID vaccinations to students, faculty, and staff. This fall, she will also complete a preceptorship, similar to an apprenticeship, where she will work under the supervision of a nurse. Unlike other clinical nursing rotations, the preceptorship involves working one-on-one with an experienced practitioner versus in a small group.

“I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to do this. I would not trade it for anything,” she says.

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