As vaccination efforts ramp up nationwide in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaitlyn Ledford is among those helping answer the call in Northeast Ohio. A fourth-year student at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Ledford has worked alongside her peers to lead a COVID POD (point of dispensing) for her capstone semester, administering COVID-19 vaccine doses to members of the Cleveland community.
Though this experience isn’t what Ledford imagined for her capstone, she has taken the opportunity in stride, and has enjoyed working alongside friends and students from the CWRU School of Medicine and the Physician Assistant Program.
“Being able to work as such a strong team and get these vaccine doses out to hundreds of individuals in the Cleveland community is something really special,” she said, “and I couldn’t be more grateful that I get the opportunity to do it during my last semester of nursing school.”
Ledford’s work at the COVID-19 vaccine clinics is just the latest example of her passion for caregiving. Growing up, she helped her mother raise her brother who was diagnosed with severe autism at an early age, requiring around-the-clock care when he was young.
From that experience, Ledford “really developed this love and passion for nurturing and caring for others” that translates into her work today. It prepared her most recently for an experience helping vaccinate an older mother and her young-adult son with autism at a local clinic.
“As a sibling of a person with autism, I know how scary it can be to bring someone in to get vaccinated who has trouble communicating and expressing their emotions,” Ledford said. She bonded over the relatable feelings and experiences with the mother and her son and was able to give some peace of mind to the pair, sharing that she would vaccinate her own brother if she had the chance.
Through her conversations and experiences running the PODs, Ledford has gained skills and insight that she hopes to apply to a career in neonatal and pediatric nursing, a goal she established during her OB/GYN clinical rotations shadowing for the first time in the NICU at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children.
“I saw how vulnerable these tiny humans are and I wanted to fight for them not only as a nurse, but also as an advocate and team or family supporter,” she said.
Ledford feels that she can make the greatest difference by caring for people at the beginning of their lives, where her positivity, love and joy can actively uplift the babies and infants for which she cares. She is applying for nursing jobs in Charleston, South Carolina, so she can do just that.
When she is not helping in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, Ledford works at the Wyant Athletic Center and engages with her sorority, Alpha Phi, which she credits with helping her become the leader that she is today. Ledford also is a member of the Alpha Mu chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and the local Greek Leadership Honor Society, Order of Omega.