Campus News

Top shot: Health Center’s travel nurse helps vaccinate campus

Joanne Davies
Joanne Davies

Top shot: Health Center’s travel nurse helps vaccinate campus

Joanne Davies is not afraid of needles.

When she was young, she insisted on watching nurses give her shots.

“I want to have a look,” she once told a nurse who told her to look away. “I want to see the needle go in.”

So it’s probably not a surprise that Davies now wields vaccine needles as the travel nurse at the University Health Center.She gives students, faculty and staff flu shots, tetanus shots—even shots for Japanese encephalitis at the center’s Allergy/Travel Clinic.

During the clinic’s busiest times she might give the flu shot to 50 patients a day. She says that while the actual shot takes milliseconds, screening patients for allergies and counseling them about the shot takes most of the appointment time.

For her needle-phobic patients, Davies tries to make the process as pleasant as possible. She says she doesn’t want to add to their stress. She tries to give the shot quickly and distract them with her chatter.

“I can talk about absolutely anything,” she said. “I’ll talk about my kids, what my dog did, the football game. I’ll try to talk about something that interests the person to take their mind off what I’m about to do.”

And for patients concerned about getting sick, in the newly remodeled Health Center, the Allergy/Travel Clinic no longer shares a space with the medical clinic. Now located in its own space on the first floor, the clinic has two vaccination rooms and more space for staffers and patients. And Davies said that patients are typically healthy—just coming in for shots.

Davies, whose mother also was a nurse, came to the Health Center a little more than two years ago. She’d previously worked in neurology in orthopedics at St. Mary’s Hospital and Healthcare System. Her background isn’t in travel medicine, but she’s an avid traveler who has visited North Africa, most of Europe, Mexico, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Macau and a lot of the U.S. She can tell many of her patients first-hand not to eat food that isn’t cooked when traveling abroad and the importance of insect repellents and mosquito nets.

She jokes that her British accent got her the travel nurse job. A native of Essex, England, she came to Athens in 1996 when her husband, Timothy, director of the Bioexpression and Fermentation Facility, came to UGA for post doctoral work.

“We only came for a year,” she said. “We just never left. We liked it so much.”

Her favorite part of the job isn’t the vaccine fridges or the 25-gauge hypodermic needles, it’s meeting the people. She enjoys getting to know the globetrotters on campus: photographers heading off to China, students going to study in South Africa, professors going off to Europe to lecture.

“I want people to go abroad, and not even think about their health—to have a good time, a productive trip and not be sick because they’ve been affected by a virus or a bacteria,” she said. “So I want them to be educated before they go.”