UW-Green Bay Nursing students proud to contribute to vaccine effort

When Alyssa Ehlke decided she wanted to become a nurse in 2014, she had no idea of the surprises being a student in 2020 would hold.

Alyssa Ehlke
Alyssa Ehlke

Now, as a student in the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s nursing program, Ehlke is one of the UW-Green Bay nursing students providing Wisconsin residents with COVID-19 vaccines that promise to bring life back to some sort of normal in the midst of a pandemic.

“I think that there’s always a little bit of anxiety when you know there is something that is such an unknown (like the pandemic)… it’s frightening because we’re so needed,” she said. “But then, at the same time, I realized how important the job that you’re going to have is. I think that was the biggest realization to me. It’s like ‘Oh, okay, my job is going to be something that’s going to make a difference.’”

Ehlke, 30, already has a bachelor’s degree in math and psychology, and originally wanted to go into teaching. But after working alongside people in healthcare professions, she realized nursing was what she really wanted to do. Now, as a sophomore nursing student, she is working as a CNA at an assisted living facility while taking classes in the nursing program, doing clinicals at the VA hospital and helping to administer vaccines to veterans who served their country.

“I think we are so fortunate to be able to have that opportunity, which is actually exciting,” she said. “We were told that if it weren’t for pandemic, we would not get the experience of doing all these vaccinations… We’re learning more about applying what we’re learning in classes to real-life situations and what’s going on in the world today.”

Launching a new pre-licensure nursing program in the middle of a pandemic presented challenges to administrators in finding practical hands-on experience for the students, said Christine Vandenhouten, chair of Nursing & Health Studies at UW-Green Bay.

UW-Green Bay Nursing student, Precious Yang draws up the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to immunize a patient at the Lakeshore Community Health Center in Manitowoc on Friday, March 26, 2021. Observing the nursing student, left, Christine Vandenhouten, chair of Nursing & Health Studies at UW-Green Bay.
UW-Green Bay Nursing student, Precious Yang draws up the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to immunize a patient at the Lakeshore Community Health Center in Manitowoc on Friday, March 26, 2021. Observing the nursing student, left, Christine Vandenhouten, chair of Nursing & Health Studies at UW-Green Bay.

“Many of our counterparts at other nursing programs saw health systems like our local hospitals, reducing the number of students who could be in a given clinical setting by half,” Vandenhouten said. “What that meant was that the educational institutions had to double the number of faculty to teach and find twice as many clinical settings to engage them in clinical learning…

“Planning for this spring semester for traditional programming was particularly challenging because we were faced with the need to create simulated clinical experiences conducted in a skills lab or find twice as many faculty and clinical units to give students the necessary clinical experiences,” she added.

With the approval of the COVID-19 vaccines in the fall, and distribution beginning in the winter, having students assist in administering vaccine helped the program provide students with a unique clinical learning experience.

But it also helps the communities in and around Green Bay. Nursing students are supporting vaccination clinics in Green Bay at Aurora BayCare Medical Center and the Milo C. Huempfner VA Clinic, and in Manitowoc at the Lakeshore Community Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center, Vandenhouten said. Additionally, she is in talks with other communities and health systems to assist their efforts in the future.

Students get academic credit for their participation, as well as real-world experience. In addition, they get a $500 credit towards their tuition if they work 16 hours in the Covid clinics. Vandenhouten said that as of today, 27 of the 34 traditional BSN students have participated in the vaccination program. The Nursing program students will continue working in the vaccination clinics in April with the goal of having all 34 students participate.

Jordan Barnes, 22, who is also working towards her bachelor’s in nursing, said she was excited to learn that she would be volunteering in health care in the middle of the pandemic.

“I was excited when I found out we would have the opportunity to administer COVID-19 vaccines to the public,” she said. “It was an exciting time because every vaccine I administered was one step closer to life going back to normal. I was able to learn the science behind the vaccine and how it works in our body, so I was able to ease the nerves of some patients and make them feel more comfortable with their choice to get the vaccine.”

Barnes started her college career with the goal of getting a degree in Human Development with minors in Psychology and German so she could go into counseling. But in her junior year, she decided she wanted to go into nursing instead to do more for her patients.

“My mom works as a hospice nurse and seeing her compassion as she shares her experiences with me is what really drove me in that direction,” she said.

After graduating with her Human Development degree in December 2020, she started working on her nursing degree. Now, as she works in healthcare settings as part of her training, the experiences, and the pandemic, reinforce her decision.

“I do not think I had any concerns going into nursing school in the middle of a pandemic. If anything, it made me feel like I knew for sure that this is the career path for me. Knowingly walking into what some people may refer to as ‘a disaster’ and continuing says something about that person and what kind of caretaker they will become,” she said.

The most surprising part about the experience, she said, was the reaction of the patients.

“I did not realize how grateful and excited patients would be as they walked into the clinic for their first dose of the vaccine,” she said. “I know that the vaccine is being given in waves and so it is eye opening that people are on waitlists while some people are passing on it when it is made available to them.”

Ehlke, who contracted COVID-19 last year while working at a local long-term care facility as a certified nursing assistant, said reactions to the vaccine fell into one of two categories.

“You have two different spectrums. You get the people who were like, ‘Oh, shoot. How is this going to affect me? Is this going to work? They’re hearing stories about how we’re going be getting a booster so is this really going to be effective?’” she said. “And then you have the people who come in and they’re so excited. They’re like ‘This is just one step forward to us not having to worry about going out in public and catching this virus…’”

Participating in the vaccination effort has been frightening, but fulfilling Ehlke said.

“At first, it was nerve-wracking because, you know, you are administering a shot into someone’s arm, but afterwards, it kind of makes you realize that you’re a part of history,” she said. “My dad contacted me afterwards and said, ‘You know, you will one day look back on this and realize that you are doing something that not many people will ever get to experience.’ This is something that is going to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives. And like I said, that’s kind of the reason why I wanted to go into nursing in the first place.”

By freelance writer Liz Carey

Photos by UW-Green Bay’s Michael Shaw and Christine Vandenhouten

Cover photo: Nursing student Precious Vang.

Partnership with state, nursing programs help boost COVID-19 vaccination efforts | WFRV

“UW-Green Bay nursing students, including traditional nursing, RN-BSN completion, and MSN students will (and have) assist as vaccinators, with post-vaccination observation and more,” says Christine Vandenhouten, Chair of UW-Green Bay’s Nursing programs.

Source: Partnership with state, nursing programs help boost COVID-19 vaccination efforts | WFRV

Wisconsin Partnership Program Will Provide Vaccination Assistance From UW-Green Bay Nursing Students

Green Bay, Wis.—Announced this week, vaccination efforts across the state will get a boost thanks to a grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) and a partnership with the UW-Madison School of Nursing and four UW System nursing schools—UW-Green Bay’s among them.

“It’s a time for ‘all hands-on deck’ to get Wisconsin residents vaccinated and UW-Green Bay Nursing is excited to partner with local healthcare providers to educate and vaccinate in the COVID pandemic,” said Christine Vandenhouten, Chair of UW-Green Bay’s Nursing programs. “UW-Green Bay nursing students, including traditional nursing, RN-BSN completion, and MSN students will (and have) assist as vaccinators, with post-vaccination observation and more. This initiative reflects the strong collaboration of UW Nursing Schools to respond to community needs and challenges at a time of great need.”

A Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) news release dated Feb. 9, said “the grant supports the coordination, education and deployment of nursing students, faculty, staff and alumni volunteers to provide clinic support and vaccine administration, as well as educational programs on preventing spread and making safe choices during the ongoing pandemic.”

“Administration of the vaccine across our state will require tremendous coordination and effort among many organizations and agencies,” says Richard Moss, PhD, Chair of WPP’s Partnership Research and Education Committee. “We are pleased to partner with the UW-Madison Nursing School and nursing schools throughout the UW System to help address the urgent need of vaccine administration.”

Badger Nurses Collaborating on Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Delivery (BN-CoVED) received a $185,000 COVID-19 Response Grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program as well as supplemental funding of $100,000 from an anonymous donor.

About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs to more than 8,700 students with campus locations in Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Established in 1965 on the border of Green Bay, the University and its campuses are centers of cultural enrichment, innovation and learning. The Green Bay campus is home to one of the Midwest’s most prolific performing arts centers, a nationally recognized 4,000-seat student recreation center, D-I athletics, an award-winning nine-hole golf course and a five-mile recreational trail and arboretum, which is free and open to the public. This four-campus University transforms lives and communities through student-focused teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities, powerful connections and a problem-solving approach to education. UW-Green Bay’s main campus is centrally located, close to both the Door County resort area and the dynamic economies of Northeast Wisconsin, the Fox Valley region and the I-43 corridor. UW-Green Bay offers in-demand programs in science, engineering and technology; business; health, education and social welfare; and arts, humanities and social sciences. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.




UWGB Nursing Students in simulation lab

UW-Green Bay nursing students prepare to help COVID-19 vaccine rollout

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY)-Nursing students at UW-Green Bay are getting ready to help with the state’s vaccination effort. “As we understand it, the local health departments are in a position where they don’t have the capacity to launch a massive vaccination clinic throughout the whole state,” said Christine Vandenhouten, chair of Nursing and Health Studies at UW-Green Bay. In an effort to increase the vaccine rollout the state enlisted the help of the National Guard and local nursing and pharmacy programs. “They are requesting us to provide a list of students and our volunteers to be part of the vaccination arm of that program and so we are prepared as nurses and nursing faculty to supervise the students, while they are vaccinating students at these COVID clinics,” said Vandenhouten.

Source: UW-Green Bay nursing students prepare to help COVID-19 vaccine rollout

MSN Leadership and Management program awarded 10 years of re-accreditation

With this announcement comes great pride and gratitude to faculty and staff for support, preparation, and time spent with the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) accreditation site visit team in February 2020. The UW-Green Bay’s MSN Leadership and Management program was awarded the maximum full 10 years of re-accreditation, through 2030. CCNE accreditation seeks continuing self-assessment by nursing education programs and supports continuing growth and improvement of collegiate professional education.

When the cohort of graduate students earned their MSN degrees in July 2020, the occasion marked 60 MSN alumni who are now leaders and managers in nursing across the Green Bay area, state, and nation! Please share our good news and encourage any nurses interested in an online MSN degree in leadership and management to reach out to program advisors Ruth Pearson and Nicole Micolichek.

SSM Health and UW-Green Bay announce partnership for MSN Leadership and Management program

Green Bay, Wis.—The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) Leadership and Management—a fully online graduate program—has announced a partnership with SSM Health, in which SSM Health employees have their application fees waived when applying to the MSN program.

Value is created for both parties in such partnerships, as academic institutions gain a pipeline of students in health professions, while health system opportunities stemming from such partnerships include enhancing patient care as employees who are also students lead research and quality improvement (QI) projects, learn current best practice and develop advanced knowledge and skills for career advancement.

“Nurse leaders innovate and address challenges in healthcare delivery, especially during change and crisis, like the recent pandemic,” says UW-Green Bay’s Chair of the program, Janet E. Resop Reilly, DNP, APRN-BC, RN. “They direct other nurses and healthcare professionals to provide excellence in patient care. Through 2028, much faster than average growth of 17-18 percent is expected in the fields of nursing and healthcare administration and management.”

This flexible MSN program is designed to provide nurses the critical skills and knowledge to be innovative, effective nurse leaders, and offers QI experiences to enhance healthcare performance and patient outcomes. Participants in the program receive individualized leadership and management practicum experiences and complete a QI project in a healthcare organization or system where they reside. Abundant opportunities to engage with peers and expert leaders and managers in the field are integrated in the courses.

“Leadership is an inherent part of every nursing role, so this program is an opportunity for a staff nurse considering a leader or manager role, or an experienced nurse leader or manager, to build upon previous and new experiences to develop into transformational leaders and managers, which are critical for today’s challenging healthcare needs,” Reilly said.

About SSM Health

SSM (previously Sister of St. Mary) Health is a Catholic, not-for-profit health system serving the comprehensive health needs of communities across the Midwest through a robust and fully integrated health care delivery system.




UW-Green Bay nursing named ‘Best Value’ top 30 program

BestValueSchools.com has published its 2017-2018 ranking and places UW-Green Bay as a Top 30 ‘Best Value’ online RN to BSN Degree Programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs opportunities for registered nurses (RNs) are expected to increase 16% by 2024. While positions are available for nurses with an associate’s degree, many employers will only hire RNs who have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). See the rankings.

Renee Payne

Global connections: Master of Nursing (MSN-online) student Renee Payne takes her first steps on campus

UW-Green Bay student Renee Payne stepped foot on campus for the first time at Saturday’s 2017 commencement ceremony (May 13, 2017), despite graduating with a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN-LINC) in Leadership and Management in Health Systems degree. In fact, she worked toward her degree from across the United States and around the globe.

The Florida native knew she wanted to become a nurse at 14 when she volunteered at a local hospital. After receiving her degree as a registered nurse (RN), she met her husband, a U.S. Air Force officer. Following his career, they moved on average every 1 to 2 years from Germany to South Korea and throughout the United States.

Payne wanted to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), but she didn’t know how with the frequent moving and young children at home. After hearing about UW-Green Bay’s online BSN program from another Air Force spouse, she applied. After completing her BSN, she continued her education in UW-Green Bay’s MSN program.

Payne says she feels connected to her professors despite the distance.

“I did not feel like the professors were on the other side of the world,” said Payne. “They were very understanding and flexible, and they treated me just as they would have if I had been in Wisconsin taking classes. Even though I’ll be meeting them face-to-face for the first time this weekend, I feel as if I already know them because of our online interactions.”

Payne’s career goals include becoming a nurse leader and educator. She would like to highlight the importance of safe staffing levels in patient outcomes and be a voice for nursing and patients via political activism.

“I feel as if it is my responsibility to speak up and fight for my patients and my nurse colleagues,” said Payne. “That’s the reason I went back to school to obtain my MSN.  I want to be part of a solution to improve patient outcomes in the U.S. as well as prepare the generation of nurses after me to continue to make improvements.”

She is now living in Dayton, Ohio with her family. Her husband, who is retired from active duty, is a civilian contractor at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Though she has been around the world, she is thrilled to travel to Wisconsin for the first time for her graduation.

Story by May ’17 Marketing and University Communication graduate Amy Bauer.

UW-Green Bay’s Nursing programs earn full CCNE accreditation

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay learned recently that a comprehensive review of its undergraduate and graduate programs in Nursing has resulted in maximum accreditations from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The CCNE, a national nursing accreditation agency officially recognized by the US Secretary of Education, evaluated both UW-Green Bay’s longstanding Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and relatively new Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs. The University received confirmation in November that its BSN program was re-accredited for the maximum 10-year period, through 2025, and that the MSN was accredited for the maximum five-year period for new programs. Each program met all accreditation standards and had no compliance concerns.

“Specialized accreditation speaks to the high level of quality in the UW-Green Bay nursing programs and well-qualified faculty,” says Prof. Susan Gallagher-Lepak, RN, PhD, who chairs and directs the University’s Nursing programs. “This ‘seal of approval’ from CCNE helps students to know that they will receive an excellent education at UW-Green Bay.”

For more than 30 years, UW-Green Bay’s Professional Program in Nursing has specialized in “degree completion” — educational offerings for registered nurses who hold two- or three-year nursing diplomas and seek to complete additional coursework to fulfill bachelor’s degrees requirements.

The BSN program at UW-Green Bay began in 1981 with on-campus courses, and added its popular online track in 1995. The program is widely recognized as a leader in online nursing education, with a majority of students today enrolled online. The 400 or so students declaring BSN majors make Nursing one of UW-Green Bay’s largest academic programs.

The University launched its master’s program in 2012, offering the MSN with an emphasis in “Leadership and Management in Health Systems.” The program graduated its first master’s degree recipients in May 2015. While the national accrediting body, the CCNE, requires a program be operative for a minimum of two years before being eligible for evaluation, the accreditation that UW-Green Bay has just received is retroactive. The program’s first seven graduates in May, then, graduated from an official CCNE-accredited MSN program.

More information about CCNE accreditation can be found at the organization’s, website http://www.aacn.nche.edu/ccne-accreditation. More information about the UW-Green Bay Nursing program can be found at http://www.uwgb.edu/nursing/


Seven receive new master’s in nursing

Nursing masters graduates

Seven nurses became the first graduates of UW-Green Bay’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Leadership and Management Health Systems program at the May 2015 commencement. The degree provides advanced coursework in leadership and management to improve care at multiple levels across the continuum of healthcare settings. All seven graduates — in alphabetical order, Jacquelyn Bailey, Clinton, Md.; Denise Gloede, Madison; Jason Mattson, Green Bay; Martha Pettineo, Lake Bluff, Ill.; Alison Reitzner, Neenah; Ramona Speier, Green Bay; and Roxanne Tienor, Suring — participated in the commencement ceremonies. Bailey, who made the longest commute, has been an active advocate for her profession and met with legislators on Capitol Hill as part of national Student Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., this past March. The new master’s degree gives the UW-Green Bay Professional Program in Nursing alumni in three separate degree areas: the registered nurse (RN) to BSN Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a bachelor’s in Health Information Management and Technology, and the new master’s.