Teammates working in COVID-19 units jump at the chance to volunteer to help with mass vaccination events in the hopes of ending the pandemic.

Coronavirus Updates, News | one year ago

Refilling the Tank: COVID-19 Unit Teammates Find Hope as Vaccinators

Teammates working in COVID-19 units jump at the chance to volunteer to help with mass vaccination events in the hopes of ending the pandemic.

In March 2020, as the world began to realize the magnitude of COVID-19, the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit (MSICU)at Atrium Health Cabarrus was transformed into a COVID-19 ICU

Roya Fazelnia, BSN, RN, CCRN, volunteered to help, and has treated COVID-19 patients in the ICU ever since.

For so long, I felt helpless as I watched this disease spread so quickly through the community,” she says

Now with the advent of a vaccine, Fazelnia finally feels a sense of relief. 

“It seemed like we finally had a real, concrete tool to help end the pandemic,” she explains. “I signed up to take the vaccine as soon as I could. 

But being vaccinated herself wasn’t enough. Fazelnia helped her parents, who are in their 70ssign up for their own vaccinations. But she still wanted to do more. She once again stepped up to volunteer, this time at one of Atrium Health’s mass vaccination sites. 

Teammates working in COVID-19 units jump at the chance to volunteer to help with mass vaccination events in the hopes of ending the pandemic. 

“It was a no brainer,” Fazelnia says. “As an ICU nurse, I'm intimately aware of the destruction that this virus can cause. I come to work every day to fight this thing, and the vaccine events are just another way to do that.” 

Rhonda Wright, MHA, BSN, NEA-BC, AVP, Patient Care Services at Atrium Health Cabarrus, has watched in awe as her nurses have gone above and beyond for these patients, hosting birthday parties in the ICU – even learning to sing in Spanish for a Spanish-speaking patient – holding celebrations for recovered patients who are going home, and helping families connect via iPad, sometimes for what may be the final goodbye. 

It has taken a toll on patients, their families and this ICU staff,” Wright explains. “I believe the commitment, the anger, the hope drives some of our most dedicated to join in on the community efforts to fight this virus.”

For Fazelnia, she counts her first mass vaccination experience, volunteering at Bank of America Stadium, as one of the highlights of her career

She recalls a woman who came to be vaccinated, despite her fear of needles. 

“She was so scared. She was shaking and pale,” Fazelnia remembers, “But she didn’t even flinchI just remember thinking to myself, ‘If she can come and do this twice, then anyone can do this. I was so uplifted after that event and I'm so excited to do it again.

Across Atrium Health, we’ve heard similar stories. Feedback from teammates who have volunteered to help with vaccinations has been overwhelmingly positive and it gave those planning the mass vaccination events an idea. They wanted to give the teammates working in COVID-19 units – people who have seen the most heartache and felt the largest impact of fighting this disease – a chance to fight back by helping vaccinate others. They reached out to the nurse managers and asked, ‘Would any of your teammates want to do this?’

“When I told teammates about this opportunity, they were quick to reply and extremely excited to give their time,” says nurse manager Laura Ledford, BSN, RN, CCRN, who works on the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center. “This has been a very difficult year for everyone, and this team is happy to see numbers declining and hopeful for brighter days to come.” 

For Jessica Schumacher BSN-RN, who works in the MICUthe start of the pandemic coincided with the start of her nursing career.

Our unit has taken on COVID-19 critically ill patients since the beginning of the pandemic, Schumacher explains. “We are not only physically, but mentally and emotionally exhausted. Volunteering to help administer vaccinations helps our community, our patients, their familiesand my own familyto see light at the end of the tunnel.

That tunnel has sometimes been very dark for nurses like Schumacher and the patients they care forSchumacher recalls spending days at a patient’s bedside before they eventually succumbed to COVID-19. 

I sat on the patient’s bed, holding their hand, and I could see and feel the fear in the patient’s eyes.

When the patient passed away, the family asked to meet Schumacher. She and some of her MICU teammates printed a strip of the patient’s heartbeat and placed it in a bottle for the family to keep. These are the moments she hopes no other family will have to experience. 

“I feel honored to have already had the opportunity to be vaccinated,” Schumacher says, “and feel just as honored to be able to administer these to the community, to help serve my Charlotte neighbors.”

Teammates working in COVID-19 units jump at the chance to volunteer to help with mass vaccination events in the hopes of ending the pandemic. 

More than a dozen nurses from the MICU signed up to volunteer at the Charlotte Motor Speedway second dose event. Fazelnia also signed up to volunteer again, along with other cardiac and critical care nurses from Atrium Health Cabarrus and Levine Children’s Hospital Emergency Departmentall teaming up to support each other and the community. Each carries their own special reason for taking part. All carry a greater hope: ending the pandemic.

“Please do not give up, we will continue to fight this battle together,” Schumacher says. “Vaccination is a huge step in achieving victory in this pandemic!”

A notion Fazelnia couldn’t agree with more.

If you don't do it to protect yourself, do it to protect others,” Fazelnia says"This is something that we all need to work together to accomplish.

More information about Atrium Health’s vaccination plans for the public, including FAQs, can be found at