As the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out continues, it has been challenging to find qualified healthcare professionals who can administer the vaccines to the overwhelming number of people who qualify. Doctors and nurses are stretched thin, working overtime to take care of those who currently have COVID-19 and often do not have the capacity to care for patients and administer the vaccine. Retired registered nurse and St. Catherine University student Victoria Vandersteen ’23 saw the strain this was putting on her healthcare colleagues and decided to temporarily return to nursing to help with vaccinations. In an interview with WCCO — a local radio station in Minneapolis — she said, “This allows me to step up when someone maybe can’t leave the ICU, I can work.”
Vandersteen is no stranger to large-scale public health efforts. For the past 15 years, she has worked with her church and Children’s Surgery International to provide medical care and healthcare education for people in Jamaica, Liberia, Vietnam, Haiti, Mongolia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. As Vandersteen said to WCCO, “It’s been quite enlightening and a real privilege to be able to work with other countries and their nursing and physicians and medical students, advancing the practice of healthcare." In her global work, she has always strived to for partnership with local communities. “Through partnership, we can come humbly and with equality to learn what a community needs and what we can provide. It is all about translation and communication,” she says.
Without having received the vaccine herself, Vandersteen has been administering the COVID-19 vaccine across the state with Medix Staffing Solutions since February. This experience has been gratifying and energizing for Vandersteen. “I don’t feel depleted after a 14-hour shift,” she says. “After so much isolation during this pandemic, I feel grateful to be out in the community, connecting and being a part of this great need for global good.” On Valentine’s Day, Vandersteen was administering vaccines in Rochester, Minn. The high that day was -6° Fahrenheit, and most of the people who were coming for vaccines were 65 years or older. Vandersteen remembers, “An elderly couple had driven all the way from St. Cloud to get their vaccine on that frigid day. They were incredibly grateful and I talked with them about their lives and experience. In situations like that, I could feel the human connection and see the ‘whole person’ of who we were helping. It was a beautiful way to spend Valentine’s Day.”
This spring, Vandersteen decided to return to school for her bachelors of science degree in nursing (BSN) at St. Kate’s. “I love nursing and I want to connect with people globally through education,” she says. By returning to school to get her BSN, Vandersteen says she will be able to get certificates and work in a capacity she would not have been able to with her associate’s degree. “I always knew St. Kate’s was a great school and I appreciate St. Kate’s Catholic teaching perspective,” she says. “The class sizes are small and I love the holistic approach that St. Kate’s nursing exemplifies.”
For now, Vandersteen will continue administering COVID-19 vaccines and fully join the RN-BSN program at St. Kate’s this fall after completing her prerequisites. As she said in her WCCO interview, “I feel like a conduit for providing hope and wellness for my community, and hopefully it will trickle around globally at some point.”