Sam Repp, ECHO Staff Reporter
Working as a nurse on a school campus with as many as 1,500 people is challenging enough during normal days. Doing so during a pandemic magnifies the challenge tremendously. Trinity nurse Mrs. Vickie Pennington, RN, handles the job of caring for those in the school community with a smile and a sense of pride. She discussed how she came to work at Trinity and the “emergency” that occurred during her first two weeks on the job.
Q: What motivated you to come to Trinity?
A: Mr. (Randy) Perkins asked if I would be interested in cutting hair for the drug testing program at Trinity. He knew I had strong Trinity ties. Both my children, my two brothers, and my nephew graduated from Trinity. I started working in the drug testing program, and two weeks later the nurse that was working had a family emergency. I stepped in part-time, and when she retired, I took over full-time.
Q: What made you want to get into the medical field?
A: My grade school basketball coach was a nurse, and I wanted to be a nurse because I admired her very much. The idea of helping someone feel better just seemed to appeal to me.
Q: How has the pandemic changed your daily work at Trinity?
A: Due to our hybrid schedule and students that opted to stay completely online, I see fewer students daily than I have in past years. I now spend more time on the phone answering questions regarding COVID and checking in on sick students that are at home. I miss seeing everybody’s friendly faces!
Q: What has been the most difficult aspect of working during this pandemic?
A: The most difficult aspect of working during the pandemic has been not having all students in the building. I miss hearing the noise between classes and the chatter in the cafeteria. I also hate that our students are not able to participate in regular high school activities like they have in previous years. I have seen the emotional toll COVID has taken on both the students and staff.
Q: What positives have you seen coming out of coping with the pandemic?
A: What I have seen as positive is the way our administration worked to keep staff and students safe. I saw teachers at Trinity learn new methodologies to teach students in a hybrid class. I was impressed watching them produce creative and innovative ways to instruct students at home while instructing students in class at the same time. I think we all learned to expect changes, be flexible, and adapt as quickly as possible.
Q: What advice would you give those thinking about entering the medical field?
A: There are many options in healthcare besides nursing. Physical therapy, speech therapy, medicine, and occupational therapy are just a few choices. I have loved being a nurse, and it was the perfect career choice for me. It allowed me to work in hospitals, home health, administration, and now in a school. Nursing offers job security because, unfortunately, there will always be individuals with health issues. Take time to study the many options available in the medical field to find a choice right for you. Stay in school, plan on college, and study hard.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working with the students and faculty?
A: I love seeing students and watching them grow and mature throughout the school year and their time at Trinity. Taking care of students makes my day; seeing the smiles and laughs is a reward of the job. Being there for students that are struggling with a health or personal issue and need some support is another rewarding part of my job. I also am lucky to work with a wonderful, hardworking, cohesive group in the SAO. They are terrific co-workers.
Q: What hobbies do enjoy?
A: I am an avid reader and enjoy many types of books. As a member of the Human Needs and Concerns Committee at my church, I volunteer for charitable projects like food drives, providing meals at a shelter, and a diaper drive for both children and adults. I love to travel and am looking forward to this pandemic being over so I can hit the road again!
Q: What is your most memorable moment at Trinity?
A: I had been at Trinity about two weeks when I accidentally dialed 9-1-1. That call set off alarms and automatically called the police. Mr. Perkins came running out of his office shouting, “Vickie! Hang up the phone!” but it was too late. It was embarrassing to look up and see Dr. Mullen, Dr. Zoeller, Mary Ann Snyder, and several other people standing at my desk who had responded to the non-emergency. I wondered if that would be my last day at Trinity. I can tell you from firsthand experience that Trinity reacts quickly to 9-1-1 calls.
Q: What do you love about Trinity?
A: What I love most about Trinity is that we accept many types of students at many different educational levels. Administration, staff, teachers, and counselors work with all levels of students to make sure every student is successful. To me, this is Trinity’s mission in action. It is what makes me immensely proud to say I work at Trinity.