The Methow Valley is one of the largest, rural regions in Washington state, which means healthcare services are often far and few between. Vanbianchi quickly got to work leveraging leadership, resources, and community support.
“In January when the news announced that school staff wouldn’t be eligible for the vaccine, I started with advocacy by writing letters to Washington political leaders championing the argument that school staff should be vaccinated,” Vanbianchi said. “My next step was to lean into the resources, so in collaboration with our local EMS service, hospitals and clinics, I took a leadership role in organizing vaccination clinics for in-phase community members.”
Within four days of school staff becoming eligible for the vaccine, 85 percent of Methow Valley School District school staff received one or more doses of their COVID vaccine. But Vanbianchi credits this effort to the partnerships she has fostered over the past year.
She quickly made partnerships with local clinics to provide testing and medical consultation with their medical directors. With the help of Kiwanis Club members, hand washing stations were built over all three school campuses. In addition, Vanbianchi engaged the local EMS agency through weekly meetings which led to more access to testing and vaccination clinics. To date, these partnerships have resulted in thousands of vaccinations given in school district gymnasiums.
Vanbianchi hopes the past year demonstrated the value of clinical leadership inside school buildings. “During a normal school year it can be easy to forget the importance of the school nurse,” she added. “My hope is that people see my work as a school nurse as something that mobilizes people and resources to tackle tough challenges and thrive.”