BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Laura Schultes, 78, found out during a doctor’s appointment that Wood County Hospital was looking for qualified people to help with the COVID-19 vaccination effort. 

She applied for the job and was hired to come out of retirement to give vaccines at the hospital, where she had spent her entire career as a nurse.

What You Need To Know

  • Nurses came out of retirement to work COVID-19 vaccine clinics

  • Their contributions are helping hospitals get through staffing shortages

  • Formerly retired nurses described a sense of meaning in the work

“I feel very comfortable giving the shots because I've been giving them forever,” said Schultes, who was a nurse on the general floors and in the hospital’s ICU.

Schultes and four other nurses have been rehired to work in the hospital’s vaccine clinics. Their help has enabled Wood County Hospital to make vaccines available to the community, even at times when staffing has been tight due to patient surges and staff quarantines.

“I feel like I am doing a lot for the community. Every one we do, we say, ‘one more done,’” she said. “I’ve seen people all the time that I know. It's great because I do get to see people that I haven't seen for a long time.”

Over the last year, Schultes said she’s seen the demand for vaccines ebb and flow, with swells each time a new age group is added or the authorizations get expanded. 

Lately, she has been busy giving booster shots — some days it’s a lot of Moderna shots, on others, there's a rush for Pfizer boosters, she said. 

In her 11th month working the clinics, she said the recent rise in COVID-19 cases is also renewing interest in the vaccine. Sometimes people are motivated by a relative or a friend having a close call with the virus, or a family member telling them they need to be vaccinated. 

“Right now, we're getting a lot of people, even some first-time people, because of the omicron variant. They're hearing so much bad about it,” she said.

The hospital holds walk-in vaccine clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it has offered shots at a variety of locations, including a farmers market during the summer. 

Terry Gundy, 67, who worked at the hospital as a nurse in obstetrics for more than 40 years, said she feels a sense of community working at the vaccine clinics, running into old friends and former patients.

“It is a national effort to get our whole country vaccinated, and anything we can do to help is a good thing. Of course, it's enjoyable for me just to get out and have somewhere to go each day,” Gundy said. “The people that come to us for the vaccines are so thankful. They're the ones that really want to help and get this horrible condition under control, and it's a nice feeling to know that we're helping.”

As a recent vaccine clinic was winding down, Gundy said they had given nearly 100 shots  – another successful day. Still, she said she wishes more people would come in to get their first dose.

“It’s difficult for me to understand why people won't get vaccinated. It seems like such a simple thing to help stop this condition in our country, but people seem to think that they know more than what the scientists do when they don't want to get the vaccine,” she said. 

In addition to the retired nurses who’ve been rehired, the hospital is getting help from volunteers, like Pattie Jo, a retired teacher who has spent more than 500 hours with the clinics, often checking patients in at the front desk. 

“Her school teacher skills really come out because she helps some who maybe can't read, or can't read English. What she's done at this table to facilitate the smooth running of the vaccinations is just amazing,” said Laurie Newlove, the hospital’s director of volunteers. “She is a selfless individual who loves Wood County Hospital and loves helping people.”

Newlove said Jo’s contributions have made an immense difference in the community, especially with hospital staffing resources strained by the virus. 

“With COVID-19, our staff is just so overwhelmed. We're so short-handed all of the time, so any time a volunteer can do anything and be in a role, it is so appreciated,” she said.