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Nick Olivieri

Community Health student who is EMT can administer vaccines, feels confident about return to in-person instruction

Nick Olivieri is a senior in the University of Illinois’ College of Applied Health Sciences, and expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in community health in May. But if he was returning to school in the fall—when UIUC and many other schools are expecting to return to in-person instruction in the midst of the pandemic—he would be looking forward to it.

“100 percent,” said Olivieri, an Orland Park, Ill., native. “U of I has put on an example for the rest of the nation. I get tested multiple times a week, and if people continue to do that, I don't see a reason why I can't be sitting next to my fellow classmates once we all know we've had some negatives. People are going to get vaccinated. I don't see why our campus can't be back in person, and people will actually get the real U of I experience that they thought they would when they signed up to come to the school.”

Part of the reason Olivieri is so confident is that, as a licensed Emergency Medical Technician, he is eligible to administer COVID-19 vaccines. As part of his graduation requirement, Olivieri is doing an internship as a medical assistant at Frances Nelson Health Center, a walk-in clinic in Champaign, where UIUC is based.

“One of the first things they said my first day on the internship, was like, ‘OK, cool. You got your EMT license. You are eligible to give the vaccine,’” he said. “And it took a bit of asking after that. But eventually a slower day around the clinic, so one of the physician's assistants brought me over to the vaccination clinic, and he let me do it. And only through this internship would I be able to do that, which I'm grateful for.”

Not that Olivieri—who has himself gotten vaccinated—didn’t have some hesitation about putting needles into arms.

“Well, I won't lie. When I first was approached, asked to do it, I was a little hesitant. I didn't have any previous experience giving shots, but I knew someone would be training me. And I've always learned throughout EMS that you're only going to learn through actually doing it. You can't overthink it.”

Most people age 16 and older in Central Illinois are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, and Frances Nelson is administering vaccines to “almost anyone who asks,” Olivieri said. Still, some are naturally concerned about taking the needle or the potential side effects.

“There are cases where people get a wave of anxiety or fear,” he said. “And these people, we take them to the side and we try to calm them down by just like talking to them. Because these bad reactions, they're very rare. But I do tell these people that I take this vaccine. And every institution worth their while in the U.S. opts for the vaccine. And I think it's a civil duty getting it.”

In his role as an EMT and at Frances Nelson, Olivieri is an obvious choice for classmates and friends to come to for advice.

“I am somewhat knowledgeable about health care, and I've taken enough science classes to know how the vaccine works,” he said. “But I'm still no expert on this whatsoever. (Classmates) do ask me questions about the vaccine. And I have nothing but good to say about it. I'm pretty confident in the safety of it. (But) with the collective knowledge of all the scientists in America, the CDC is the best source.”

Olivieri added that he will not “baby-sit” his fellow classmates about their behavior on campus.

“It is frustrating to see a large group of campus going out every weekend, things like that,” he said. “But people are also in control of their own decisions. But I would say yes, it is a bit frustrating when people do not follow such recommendations given by the CDC and university.”

Olivieri is quick to point out that he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in without his AHS training.

“You can enter many different fields through Community Health, and they kind of give you a good way of thinking about health care,” he said. “I wanted to help people in health care, but I wasn't really sure in what way. Community Health at AHS really helps you learn about all the types of positions throughout the health system.”

Olivieri already has had a number of experiences for someone of his age. Yet, he has big plans ahead.

“I want to get a job at an ambulance company, but also look for other jobs in a clinical setting. I want to do that for a couple of years and hopefully take the (Medical College Admission Test), do well, and gain admission into medical school.”

With his training, Olivieri is well on his way.

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