Student Nurses Association adapts meetings and outreach for pandemic success

Nursing students in the Student Nurses' Association at UCF help administer COVID-19 vaccines in January, along with some pre-nursing students as guides, at the vaccination site. Through its Breakthrough to Nursing initiative, the organization stimulates interest in nursing by allowing pre-nursing students and others interested in the nursing field to experience what nursing students do.

The Orlando chapter of the Student Nurses' Association at UCF proved that it could adapt to COVID-19 while maintaining its high-achieving nature. 

The association was nominated for the “Outstanding Adaptation to COVID-19” award at the 2021 RSO Impact Awards, an award show put on by Knights of the Round Table and Student Government. Kate Dorminy, the organization's faculty adviser, said its success is attributed to the resilience of its student nurses. 

According to its KnightConnect page, SNA seeks to facilitate the journey of aspiring nurses and sustain interest in the field through professional experiences and community outreach. Despite COVID-19 preventing members from gathering in person last year, SNA Vice President Vanessa Iturri said the association's Zoom meetings were highly valuable.

“It was interactive and informative, and our guest speakers were really strong,” Iturri, a senior nursing major, said. “Your time on Zoom was never wasted.”

SNA Accelerated Liaison Emily Jones, a nursing student, said utilizing breakout groups and Kahoot! games increased engagement and fostered personal connections among members, even in an online setting.

“What attracted me was that even though it was online, there was so much to gain from it,” Jones said. “There are so many different experiences and events that we have. Whatever your comfort level is, there is something for everybody.”

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop the organization from continuing its community outreach either. While COVID-19 restrictions altered how its members interacted with the people they assisted, SNA continued to fulfill as many needs as its members saw in the community.

Members switched from preparing potlucks at Ronald McDonald House Charities to delivering food when COVID-19 prevented them from visiting the nonprofit. When the pandemic led to essential items being harder to obtain, they put together hygiene kits to hand out while they served food with Straight Street, a nonprofit geared toward aiding the poor and homeless. Members also helped administer COVID-19 vaccines at the start of the year.

Jones enjoys being a part of SNA for the educational and community engagement opportunities it provides and the transformative effect these have had. 

“It’s really amazing to be involved, and it makes learning so much more than just going into class every day,” Jones said. “It gives me a whole new perspective on nursing.”

The organization has been recognized repeatedly as a Diamond Chapter by the Florida Nursing Student Association for its outreach efforts, according to SNA's official website. Dorminy said SNA has gotten this distinction so often that it was named a Stellar Chapter by the National Student Nurses' Association in 2018. Dorminy said the pandemic didn't lessen the drive of the organization's members to preserve that status. 

“We have a long-standing precedent of being high achievers, and I think that helped add momentum at a time when we needed it during the pandemic,” Dorminy said.

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