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Traveling nurses help with SLO County vaccination efforts

A look at the Cuesta College COVID-19 vaccination clinic
Posted at 9:00 AM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 12:36:53-05

Healthcare workers from across the country are temporarily working on the Central Coast to help vaccinate our community.

Registered nurse Jasmine Wood is one of about 60 out-of-state healthcare workers who are working in San Luis Obispo County on a 90-day contract to help staff the county's vaccine distribution sites.

"Before this, I was working in Greensboro, North Carolina, working at a hospital there," Wood said.

She arrived in San Luis Obispo at the end of January and will be working primarily at the Cuesta College vaccination site through April.

"It's been crazy. It's been amazing. We've been vaccinating between 500-600 people a day," Wood said last Thursday. As of this week, the SLO County Public Health aims to vaccinate up to 1,000 people daily.

Wood is in charge of about 20 fellow healthcare workers, all of whom work for SnapNurse, a traveling nurse program based in Atlanta.

"I actually came across this [SnapNurse] program on Facebook. They were asking for vaccinators," Wood said. "I thought it was a really good opportunity so I decided to just apply and then they called me and here I am."

For many of the SnapNurse employees, like certified nursing assistant and Jersey native Kevin Dajene, this is their first time on the West Coast.

"I tried tri-tip, never had that before so that was a different thing to me," Dajene said. "Things are definitely fun. I love the weather and the scenery."

Dajene also loves his patients at the Cuesta College vaccination site.

"I help people out with the wheelchairs. Getting them in and out of the car," he said. " I try to help them have a great experience through the lines, dancing and singing with them. Just giving them a better expression, letting them know that people out here still care and we're all in this together."

Before and after work, Dajene says he's often Facetiming with his six children back at home.

"My daughter says I'm her hero all the time. My son, he looks at me and he smiles as if I'm exactly who you want to be," Dajene said. "I'm trying to stay positive and give them the life that they deserve."

Dajene and Wood say being away from their families is the toughest part of their job.

"[My family,] they don't like that I'm so far away from home but they love it. They are super proud of me," said Wood.

When their contract in San Luis Obispo County wraps up in May, it's unclear whether they will be able to go back home or if they will be reassigned somewhere else.

"I'm going with faith. We're definitely going to go where they take us," Dajene said. "I can't say, 'Yeah, I'm done.' I'm just going to go ahead and help as much as I can."

"I just want to say hello to my family," Wood said. "Thank you guys for being patient with me. I'll be home soon. But right now we're trying to get vaccines in arms."

Appointments to be vaccinated at one of the SLO County Public Health's vaccination sites (Cuesta College, Paso Robles Event Center, Arroyo Grande High School) can be made online for anyone who is eligible based on county guidelines.