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Traveling nurses help county vaccination efforts 

Hattie Sentmore was gearing up to leave her New Orleans home earlier this year for her first COVID-19-related traveling nurse assignment in Texas when her best friend convinced her to switch assignment locations to California.

The women arrived in San Luis Obispo on Feb. 1, and Sentmore said she's been on an incredible journey ever since. Sentmore was assigned to station No. 7 at the Cuesta College vaccination site.

click to enlarge HERE TO HELP Hattie Sentmore, a New Orleans native, traveled to the Central Coast to assist in SLO County's efforts to administer the COVID-19 vaccinations to residents. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HATTIE SENTMORE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Hattie Sentmore
  • HERE TO HELP Hattie Sentmore, a New Orleans native, traveled to the Central Coast to assist in SLO County's efforts to administer the COVID-19 vaccinations to residents.

"It was so funny to me because [patients] would come over and say to me 'oh my God, seven is my lucky number,'" she said.

A lot of vaccination patients, Sentmore said, were excited to get their vaccination, shedding tears of joy at the idea of returning to normalcy. She even received a gift card for a whale watching tour.

"I have had patients always tell me they're grateful because I'm kind, but I tell them like I tell my kids, to treat people the way you want to be treated," she said.

"The overwhelming kindness and welcoming from everyone, I just felt so welcomed. Even though I am African American, and this community is predominantly caucasian, I had so many people come in and thank me," she said. "Some people did say, like 'no disrespect, but I haven't seen many African Americans here so thank you for coming.'"

Sentmore was part of a California program available to counties through the medical and health mutual aid system across the state, according to county spokesperson Michelle Shoresman. Nurses who participate in this program are contracted by the SnapNurse (SNAP) and the California Department of Public Health.

The county's original request was for 10 SNAP registered and licensed practical nurses, 30 ancillary personnel, and six pharmacists. Most staff, Shoresman said, were under an original deployment for 90 days that was renewed once, and many of the SNAP personnel continued on when the request was renewed.

R.A.C.E. Matters SLO made an effort to work with the county to ensure that these diverse individuals with various clinical backgrounds felt welcomed.

Preston Allen, a R.A.C.E. Matters member, said their steering committee's intentions are to welcome the nurses, let them know they're seen and appreciated, and inform them that the community is inclusive and diverse.

"Because of their willingness to leave their home to travel all this way for us and guide us through this intense and for some a scary process of vaccinating our community. Each point of this medical team's contact was reassuring, with an extremely caring attitude. Several staff were from my home state and town (Detroit, Michigan). We shouted out our high schools and talked about family. ... While the conversations were brief, because they were of course working, the conversations were heartfelt," Allen said.

As the county works to close down the vaccination sites due to declining demand, Sentmore is also packing her bags to head home. She said her experience has moved her and other nurses to make future plans to return to visit the community. Δ

Correction: The article has been updated to reflect SNAP was incorrectly stated as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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