CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that full-time Registered Nurse Becky Amash would begin work in January. She began work in October. Elon News Network regrets this error.
After a monthslong gap, Elon University Student Health Services has hired a registered nurse who can provide allergy shots, patient care and other treatment.
Becky Amash, who previously worked with the Alamance County Health Department, is joining as a full-time RN after Registered Nurse Cynthia Moore retired at the end of the 2022-23 school year after working at Elon for over 14 years.
Dr. Ginette Archinal, university physician and medical director of student health at Elon, said there is a shortage of registered nurses which made it difficult to fill the position at the university.
“The fact that there was such a delay in getting an RN hired proves the fact that it is difficult to hire qualified people,” Archinal said. “There is a shortage of RNs nationwide — Alamance County is no different. And even within that, there’s a shortage of people who are qualified to give allergy shots and prepared to do the training to give allergy shots.”
Elon currently has three certified medical assistants on staff according to the Student Health Services website.
According to the National Institute of Health, reasons for a nursing shortage include an aging workforce, nurse burnout and career and family reasons such as having children. According to Statista, 88.3% of nurses were female in 2021.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030 with employment opportunities for nurses projected to grow at a faster rate — 9% — than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026.
Archinal said the role of a registered nurse goes beyond just providing allergy shots, while since Moore was part-time, her role was primarily to perform allergy injections.
“The person has responsibilities, both in fac, staff wellness, as well as in student health,” Archinal said. “It’s important that people understand this is not just about giving allergy shots. It’s finding the right person for a comprehensive position.”
Archinal said she is excited to have Amash on board.
“She has tons of experience in public health, which of course is huge in a college campus situation, lots of experience in giving injections and also patient education,” Archinal said. “She’s a really good fit.”
She said Amash has spent several days training with a local allergy office and having a full-time nurse will allow students to get allergy shots any day of the week.
“We were fortunate enough to have somebody fill in from one of the allergy offices one day a week,” Archinal said. “Having Becky now means that students no longer are restricted to only getting their allergy shots on a Monday, which is a great improvement for students.”
Aidan Fishkind, a freshman from Michigan, has allergies to trees, moss and pollen that require them to get maintenance allergy shots.
Fishkind has been receiving shots since July 2022 and now receives monthly maintenance shots. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two phases of allergy shots: the buildup phase, where allergy shots are given one to three times a week, and the maintenance phase , where injections continue infrequently for three to five years.
In seventh or eighth grade — years before they started allergy shots — Fishkind said they had an allergic reaction to a friends’ cats.
“I traveled to see a friend who had two cats and seriously I cannot describe it other than my eyes felt like they were actually on fire,” Fishkind said. “I was coughing up a fit.”
They said this year during fall break, they visited a friend’s house with cats and did not need allergy medication once. Fishkind said this is a testament to the efficacy of allergy shots.
“I was concerned with the effectiveness and realness of allergy shots. But from that trip, they really proved themselves and it’s really quite worth it,” Fishkind said. “People will often describe it as night and day, and I have to wholeheartedly agree.”
Fishkind said though not having a registered nurse on campus was an inconvenience, everyone they spoke to at Elon Student Health Services, Cone Health and LeBauer Allergy were empathetic.
“LeBauer is who I talked to primarily during that uncertain time, and everybody was just so helpful and so kind. There was an inconvenience for me, I’m not going to say there wasn’t and there could have been medical repercussions as far as my allergies go,” Fishkind said. “Everybody was just so considerate in the time being and very helpful and apologetic and by no means do I blame anybody for this.”
Fishkind’s last allergy shot was Nov. 13, preceded by one on Oct. 4. Before that, though, Fishkind said their most recent one was Aug. 7 when they were still at home.
Fishkind said their dosage was adjusted to make up for the missed shot, and they have not noticed any significant changes.
Fishkind said before Student Health Services had hired anyone, they were beginning to get nervous.
“It’s a pretty important thing to my well being and so I was getting a little concerned,” Fishkind said. “But I never once doubted they were working on it.”
Fishkind said they feel more at ease now knowing they are not restricted to getting their allergy shots just one day a week at Student Health Services.
Archinal said she is glad to have Amash on staff. Amash began working in Student Health Services on Oct. 30.
“It will be a great asset for those students and faculty and staff to have an RN who is available as she will be,” Archinal said.