Delainey Dietz was happy and relaxed as she sat under a large white tent, one of dozens set up in what was once a long-term parking lot near the Orlando International Airport now converted into a mass vaccination site for the community.

“I’m not nervous,” she says, her eyes smiling above her face covering. “I’ve given shots before.” Minutes later she carefully administered her first COVID-19 vaccination, marking a milestone in her college career and her contribution to combatting one of history’s biggest public health threats. Her first patient sat calmly in the chair with his dress sleeve rolled up. He never flinched.

Dietz, a senior, is one of almost 200 student nurses from UCF’s main, Cocoa and Daytona Beach campuses who to date have served at five community vaccination sites. UCF is joining a nationwide effort, led by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, to engage nursing school students and faculty in the work underway to administer the vaccine and educate citizens.

Senior Audrey Been was among the first students deployed to a community site, and estimates she gave 50 vaccinations during her shift.

“It was a great feeling to play a role in administering the one thing that will protect vulnerable populations,” says Been. “People came from across the state. I could tell it made a difference in their lives. I was honored to play a role in that.”

Kate Dorminy ’06 ’10MS, an undergraduate internship experiences coordinator at the College of Nursing, says the goal is to provide all students who plan to graduate this spring with the opportunity to participate in least one vaccination administration. UCF students have so far joined forces with AdventHealth, Orlando Health, the Volusia County Health Department, Health First Viera Hospital and Parrish Medical Center, working all day shifts at various sites across the region.

“Our clinical partners appreciate the opportunity to work with UCF nursing students,” says Dorminy, who earned degrees in nursing from UCF. “We are included in the planning and respected for our work. Considering the rapid magnitude of efforts being utilized, it really takes a team approach.”

In addition to providing the vaccines, students ensure documentation is properly completed, answer questions, and monitor patient recovery areas. In addition to the practical skills, students are learning time management, organization and rapport building. They administer both first and second doses of the vaccination to recipients eligible under Florida’s Executive Order, which currently includes people 65 years of age or older, healthcare personnel with direct patient contact, long-term care residents and staff, as well as patients deemed by hospital providers to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

Dorminy says the student nurses are eager for more.

“I can tell our job of ‘raising future nurses’ is being done well, when I can hear my students asking for an opportunity to get involved and really wanting to know when can they do it again,” says Dorminy. “This is a monumental moment in healthcare and humanity. Administering vaccines is similar to giving doses of hope to people that have recently faced many risks and fears. Tears of joy, smiles and selfies to commemorate the occasion are not taken for granted.”

Been says the opportunity to serve at a site has been a highlight of her time at UCF.

“To feel like we could make a direct difference definitely shaped my experience,” she says. “I knew that after graduating and working in a hospital we would be more involved. I never thought that as a nursing student we’d be able to play a role like this.”