Life’s Funny

Real Talk with Nurse Jaekle

Chasing science with a shot of art

By Maria Johnson

Until earlier this year, it had been about 15 years since registered nurse Beth Jaekle had stuck a needle in anyone’s arm, but when the Guilford County Health Department set up mass vaccination centers, Jaekle, a supervisor of the agency’s school nurses, was ready to give it a shot.

Er, shots.

Mask-to-mask with hundreds of folks who sat at her station at the Greensboro Coliseum, she skipped the part about not having jabbed anyone in years. Instead, she promised her charges that she would take good care of them.

“I feel like I have the ability to make things calm,” says the 40-year nursing veteran. “That’s one of my strengths. I didn’t rush. I had conversations with people.”

She heard all kinds of stories.

Many people couldn’t wait to be immunized. Some said they were motivated to protect a family member, often an elderly person.

“They knew if their loved one got it, they could lose them,” Jaekle says.

Other people were nervous about being injected with a vaccine that had been developed in record time.

A few confided they were there only because a family member had insisted.

She listened to people of all ages and stripes. In the eyes above the masks, she saw a grab bag of emotions — fear, excitement, relief, joy. She geared her responses accordingly.

“If you treat people with respect and compassion . . .” she says.

In the end, everyone said “Yes,” when Jaekle asked the last question on her checklist: “Do you give me permission to give you this shot?”

Some of them looked away as she gently pinched their muscles and pricked the skin.

Others snapped pictures with their cell phones or had friends take videos to preserve the historic moment.

Jaekle’s last act was to cover the injection site with a bandage and pat it with a gloved hand.

“I’d say, ‘That’s my love pat as a nurse,’” she says.

What kind of feedback did she get about the experience?

“So many times, they’d say, ‘I didn’t feel a thing.’”

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