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Two Munson nurses at forefront of COVID-19 vaccination tracking

Image of Nurses discussing COVID-19 documentation. Nurses Ashley Woodruff (left) and Erin Richter, discuss documentation of COVID-19 vaccines for the electronic medical records on April 21 at Munson Army Health Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (Photo by: Tracy McClung, Munson Army Health Center Public Affairs).

Munson Army Health Center civilian nurses Ashley Woodruff and Erin Richter have been responsible for administering and charting 80% of the nearly 14,000 COVID-19 vaccinations given so far to service members, their families, and retirees at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas military medical treatment facility.

Munson's motto is "constant dedicated care," and Woodruff and Richter embody those qualities.

Woodruff and Richter, both licensed practical nurses, work in the Munson multiservice specialty clinic, where, in addition to the COVID-19 vaccinations, they are responsible for ensuring the military population is medically ready for deployment. They are also responsible for improving, protecting, and promoting immunization health care for service members, military families and retirees who use Munson as their health center or who are changing service locations or going outside the continental United States.

The Fort Leavenworth area has more than 25,000 beneficiaries enrolled in the Military Health System there, said Army Lt. Col. Ira Waite, deputy commander for nursing and patient services at Munson.

Waite said Woodruff and Richter "have been doing a yeoman's effort as the primary personnel working on the COVID-19 vaccinations and ensuring that all regulations and policies are being followed."

COVID-19 vaccinations have been available at Munson since late December, and Woodruff and Richter have been in overdrive until recently. The largest single-day effort was 1,200 vaccinations. After that single-day vaccine team push, Woodruff and Richter managed the documentation of the doses within a few days, Waite said.

"We've learned to become highly adaptive," Woodruff said of the vaccination effort. "Guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations was changing sometimes by the hour, as were the timings of vaccination appointments. This really forced us to communicate better with our patients. We learned to say to patients: "We will get through this together, but we are not always sure exactly how.'"

Both nurses work with other military service personnel daily.

"Military nurses come in with a fresh outlook and perspective on things," Woodruff said. "This makes it easier for us and better for the patient."

Said Richter: "As health care workers, we are all in the same situation...seeing the next bump in the road during the pandemic. We use new advice daily for the best patient care, but it's a team effort, and we support one another as family."

As for strides made during the pandemic, Richter said it came in the form of supporting one another.

"We had to find new resources and build new relationships in order to support one another mentally or physically," she said.

Woodruff attended Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for her nurse training; and has been a government nurse for 14 years – 10 of those at Leavenworth.

Richter, a former military dependent who spent the most time growing up in Oklahoma, got her training at Kansas City Community College. She has been a nurse for eight years and is coming up on her fifth anniversary at Leavenworth.

"The biggest thing is that through the COVID-19 vaccination effort, Woodruff and Richter have been able to work together with the team, they've trained others and made sure regulations were followed," Waite said. "Being able to communicate well and to be able to share communication and knowledge to those around them has been notable. They've done a lot individually but also the additional work has enabled us to get the results we see today."

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