Stacey Hollander has been a nurse with Cherry Hill Public Schools, specifically serving Horace Mann Elementary School, for the last seven years. But it’s her work outside the district that she’s now calling the “most rewarding experience of my entire nursing career, the greatest work I’ve ever done.”
Hollander is just one of 20 district nurses who volunteer to administer the COVID-19 vaccine at the county level, working from the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford.
“When we were fully virtual in November and December, the (county) department of health contacted our Superintendent, Dr. (Joseph) Meloche, and asked him if he thought nurses would be interested,” Hollander explained during a Feb. 17 conversation with the Sun.
“We had to get his permission to do this during school time. And he gave it.”
So far, Hollander has gone back five separate times, the last being the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, when school was not in session. Due to the logistics of serving hundreds of citizens daily, Hollander doesn’t have an estimate of how many people she has already vaccinated.
“Every time I went there, I tried to guess, but it was tough to do. It has to be in the hundreds,” she offered. “It was an extremely well-oiled machine. The patients have all said how organized it was.”
While there has been little time for meaningful interactions with patients, Hollander mentioned that two funeral directors she recently vaccinated made an impression, if for nothing else than their caution working in a profession that deals with the dead.
The Voorhees resident has served as a registered nurse since the 1970s, noting, “I’ve seen the growth of the discipline, all of it, the good bad and the ugly.” Hollander earned a nursing certification from Rowan in 2004 to bolster her professional resume.
The toughest part of the continuing pandemic, for Hollander, has been the lack of interpersonal activity with Mann students.
“It’s all changed tremendously. There’s no more interaction with the students like I’m used to,” she lamented. “We greet each other in the halls, coming and going. They all have their masks on and we try to prevent them from staying too long (out there).”
When school is in session, Hollander has to go to students in the classroom to address any issues, rather than the other way around. She spoke about missing the Mann kindergarten students’ scavenger hunt, when clues are left with different staff members, and how the kids would come in and talk to her about it.
This year, Hollander’s interactions are limited to reading books for young students, most of whom are watching via Zoom.
“It’s harder to be front and center so they can get to know me; that’s something the younger kids need to have, because it can be a scary thing to have to visit the nurse for a problem,” she said.
Hollander looks forward to being asked to vaccinate more county residents. She noted Meloche would again have to grant permission through the end of the school year, because the children of the district come first. Hollander did reveal, earlier in the day, that she was again contacted by the county to volunteer for spring break and possibly summer rotations.
“I’m happy to do so,” Hollander said. “The relief on patients’ faces is palpable. There’s nothing better than making someone happy by giving them a lifesaving vaccine.”