College receives NMDOH Community Partner Excellence in COVID-19 Response Award
On December 2, 2021, Northern New Mexico College President Richard Bailey presented Certificates of Appreciation to two NNMC nursing students for their work with New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) vaccination clinics on the NNMC campus. NMDOH representatives Nick Bourkas, MPA, Public Health Division Northeast Region Director, and John Ogren, MD, Regional Health Officer for the Northeast Region, were also on hand to honor Richenda Fox, RN and Michah Trujillo, RN.
“I think the biggest thing for us in fighting the coronavirus pandemic is a community effort. To have folks that are willing to step up so early on in their nursing career and say I want to keep our community safe – it’s very valuable,” Boukas said. “These folks are an asset to the profession and should be recognized for being so selfless in wanting to help their communities and put those folks ahead of selfish reasons.”
Fox and Trujillo are students in NNMC’s RN to BSN program, which is an American Holistic Health Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) endorsed holistic program and credentialed by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (https://nnmc.edu/home/academics/schools-and-departments/nursing-health/rn-to-bsn-program/). They participated in the vaccination clinics to fulfill a Service Learning Project (SLP) requirement. Both work in the home healthcare industry, so when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they did not want to risk exposing their vulnerable clients by serving on a hospital’s covid response team. Yet they wanted to contribute to efforts to fight the virus. They saw the vaccine clinics as an opportunity to serve without putting their patients or immunocompromised family members at risk.
“Choosing an SLP project was a little bit overwhelming, because you could do so much in the community, especially our community that needs help in a variety of different aspects,” Trujillo said. “Nursing always comes back to just giving back to your community and helping out where you see a need. And I saw that there was a need for vaccinations – promoting vaccinations as well as administering them.”
Boukas presented Bailey and the college with an NMDOH award for Community Partner Excellence in COVID-19 Response, noting that Rio Arriba County has one of the highest fully vaccinated rates in the state. Bailey passed on the award to Dr. Ana Malinalli x Gutiérrez Sisneros, Ph.D., MALAS, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, AHN-BC, CTN-A, Clinical Coordinator/Associate Professor in NNMC’s Nursing Department, who oversaw these service learning projects and nine others.
“The feedback that I have received from the state is that this partnership is one of the easiest and most effective that they have seen in the entire state,” Bailey said. “That’s a testament to our nursing program, but it is also a testament to the trust that the community has in this college and our state leaders.”
One highlight of the clinics for Trujillo and Fox was the opportunity to work with and learn from NMDOH employees, firefighters, National Guard members and local volunteers, an experience Fox described as “so flavorful.”
Ogren praised the women’s contribution to the clinics.
“I had the opportunity of actually supervising them at the clinics because I was the onsite medical supervision. They were a joy to work with. They’re very knowledgeable and know how to ask questions when they don’t know things,” Ogren said. “They were the type of people you really want in your team because they could function independently once they got the basics down. Bright, energetic, wonderful people.”
Bailey also had high praise for Fox and Trujillo.
“Our nursing students have committed to a profession which rests on the foundation of service to community, and they are exemplars of the power of heart-centered community-minded leaders,” Bailey said. “Our gratitude for these students and their counterparts is beyond words. They represent the best of Northern New Mexico College. We are more proud of them than we can say.”
Although their service project is complete, both students committed to volunteering for upcoming vaccination clinics and expressed interest in hiring on with NMDOH.
“I can’t stress how much the SLP project has brought to us as professional nurses, but also as human beings living in a community full of need,” Fox said. “I found a passion here. It’s an environment which is so much bigger in energy and positivity and coming together to do something that’s really important for our state, for our families, for our communities, for our college, for everyone we care about. It’s such an honor to be able to do that.”