“We were part of history,” said Kaiser Permanente Santa Cruz Nurse Amy Suzuki, RN, as she reflected on the past two years of working through the COVID-19 pandemic and providing life-saving vaccines to the community.
Suzuki is part of a group of Kaiser Permanente nurses whose work since December 2020 has contributed to the success of distributing the vaccine to Santa Cruz County residents.
“We started with three vaccine stations at the Kaiser Permanente Watsonville Medical Office and realized that wasn’t enough,” said Suzuki, who worked with others to open six additional vaccine sites, to keep up with the demand.
“Our nurse teams were able to give 80 to 130 vaccinations each day.”
— Amy Suzuki, RN - Kaiser Permanente Santa Cruz
During the month of May, Kaiser Permanente celebrates Nurses’ Week, a time to recognize and honor nurses for the compassionate care they provide every day to patients.
Some of those nurses include Suzuki and her nurse colleagues Jennifer England, RN, and Brenda George, RN, MBA, who worked to get the vaccine out into the community. All of them staffed the vaccination center at the Kaiser Permanente Arena in downtown Santa Cruz. There were 15 vaccination stations in all and on some days, the nurses gave close to 800 vaccinations a day. The nurses remember how grateful people were to be getting the shots and how that motivated them even more.
“I’ll have fond memories of this for the rest of my life,” said England. “I’m so proud to have been part of it.”
Providing some of the first vaccines
Reflecting back on when the vaccines were first rolled out in December 2020, England said: “After the first few months of the pandemic, we finally we had a vaccine and I realized I could make a difference and save lives.”
England works at the Kaiser Permanente Scotts Valley Medical Office where she and other nurses worked to vaccinate eligible people. If someone didn’t show up for a vaccination appointment, the nurses called other patients who were waiting for their shots.
George, who also works as the Director of the Kaiser Permanente Santa Cruz County Medical Offices, ensured there was enough vaccine supply by collecting unused doses from other providers.
“Thanks to our nurses, we did not waste a dose of the vaccine. It was a nursing team effort.”
— Brenda George, RN & Director of the Kaiser Permanente Santa Cruz County Medical Offices
Kaiser Permanente Santa Cruz County Senior Vice President Irene Chavez said she is grateful to all of the nurses who worked long hours and demonstrated true compassion throughout the pandemic.
“These nurses are just an example of the effort made by all Kaiser Permanente nurses who cared for those sick from COVID-19, while also helping to distribute the life-changing vaccine in our community,” she said. “We are proud of all our Kaiser Permanente nurses for the dedication and professionalism they show each and every day.”