Binghamton nursing students get experience as COVID-19 testers during Move-In Days
More than 200 faculty and students from nursing and pharmacy schools volunteer their time
How far would you go to protect your fellow classmates?
For Tammy Ellinger, Angie Kilburn and Katherine Lyon, the answer is about 400 miles!
That’s the combined distance these nurse practitioner students from Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences are traveling to volunteer as COVID-19 testers during Binghamton University’s Move-In Days, Aug. 19 through Aug. 25.
Ellinger, Kilburn and Lyon will be among the approximately 200 volunteers each day who will be testing students. The volunteers — faculty and students from Decker College and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences — will be administering a rapid nasal swab test to every student who intends to live on campus at Binghamton for the fall semester. Students must be cleared before they can move into their residential community.
Lyon, from Dundee, N.Y., volunteered for five full-day COVID-testing shifts. A registered nurse in the acute rehab unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira, N.Y., she is accustomed to the 80-mile trip to the Vestal campus, but knew she couldn’t commute each day during testing.
For Ellinger and Kilburn, commuting is even less feasible.
Ellinger lives in Rome, N.Y., more than 120 miles from Vestal, and will be working three 8-hour testing shifts. Kilburn travels over 200 miles from Salem, N.Y., and volunteered for up to seven days of testing.
With commuting anywhere from 90 minutes (Lyon) to four hours (Kilburn) out of the question, the three friends and classmates decided to book a hotel in Vestal despite the cost. This is something Ellinger and Kilburn had done in previous semesters when they had to travel to campus.
Before they made their reservation, however, Kilburn sent a quick email to Patti Reuther to see if any campus housing was available. Reuther, director of Decker’s Innovative Simulation and Practice Center, organized the COVID-testing training and is coordinating the volunteer schedule.
Reuther said yes.
“I was so happy when I learned that Binghamton University could provide accommodations for us,” said Kilburn, a registered nurse and full-time graduate student.
“We are very grateful to the University for allowing us to stay in the residence halls because that saves us at least $650,” added Ellinger, a community mental health registered nurse for the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities in Rome.
Ellinger, Kilburn and Lyon will be housed in one of the University’s apartment communities, according to Reuther. She added that resident students who volunteered as testers were allowed to move in to their rooms early.
Decker students who work at the COVID-testing during move in are provided with clinical hours, but that’s not the only reason Ellinger, Kilburn and Lyon volunteered.
“I agreed to be a part of the COVID testing because I thrive on new opportunities and challenges, and this allows me to be a productive and positive part of the Binghamton University community,” said Ellinger.
“I am hoping to help others to remain calm and educate them about why and how the coronavirus is spread and what they can do to protect themselves and others,” said Kilburn.
Lyon added: “This has never happened in our lifetime, so the experience will be interesting. And, I wanted to help during the pandemic.”
Ellinger, Kilburn and Lyon will get a break from commuting to campus during the upcoming semester, since all three have online courses.
For Kilburn, that’s a bit of a disappointment.
“I love being in a classroom and having the opportunity to ask questions in person,” she said. “I like getting to know the Decker faculty. They have so much to offer us besides coursework. They have so much knowledge and experience in the real world!”
But for Ellinger, the move to online learning has been beneficial.
“When COVID hit and we were forced to do online classes, I didn’t think I would be able to motivate and dedicate myself,” she said. “But, with the extra time since I didn’t have to travel, I was able to focus on my studies. I got three As and brought my GPA up to 3.43!”
Ellinger, Kilburn and Lyon are all pursuing master’s degrees in nursing with the goal of becoming nurse practitioners. Ellinger and Lyon are in the family nursing specialty, while Kilburn is in the adult-gerontological nursing specialty.
They are all also part of Decker’s Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) grant program, which provides academic and clinical training and financial support for students in advanced-practice nursing programs with the goal of increasing the number of healthcare providers in rural and underserved areas.