Students at Loyola’s Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing are helping vaccinate Chicagoans as part of a nationwide expansion of COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Students and faculty are participating in the vaccine effort as part of the American Association of College of Nursing’s (AACN) COVID-19 Community Engagement Pledge, according to Lorna Finnegan, dean of the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.
The pledge launched in January as part of the AACN’s campaign to engage more nursing schools in the vaccine effort. The organization asked its members, including Loyola’s School of Nursing, “to commit to deploying their students and faculty to support vaccination efforts,” according to the AACN website.
President Joe Biden launched a similar effort in March with an amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The amendment expanded the list of qualified vaccinators to include EMTs, midwives and health care students, according to a March 12 White House press release.
Loyola’s School of Nursing is working with three main partners: Loyola Health, Northwestern University and the Chicago Department of Public Health, according to Finnegan.
Finnegan explained students in both the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program work at vaccine clinics — supervised by faculty — as part of their clinical rotation. Clinical rotations are a standard practice at the School of Nursing but have been adjusted to fit the needs of the time amid the pandemic.
“It’s helping the vaccine effort as well as giving our students valuable clinical experience,” Finnegan said.
Nursing students, such as junior Whitney Weiss, not only administer shots but gain patient care experience by talking people through the process of getting the vaccine.
Weiss said she did her vaccine clinical rotation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she and her clinical group went through a day of training a few weeks before working at the vaccine clinic. At the training, Weiss, 20, said instructors walked them through the process of vaccinating, how to ask patients questions, and allowed students to practice giving the vaccine.
When working at the vaccine clinic, Weiss said she talked to patients about what the vaccine is, why they are getting it and informed them they would need to come back for their second shot. She said she also discussed patients’ health history, particularly as it related to COVID-19. She then administered the vaccine injections and directed people where to wait for a short period to make sure they had no adverse reactions.
Weiss said she appreciated the patient interaction she had at the vaccine clinic, as well as the opportunity to gain muscle memory through giving so many injections.
“Just seeing how much COVID has affected our world, knowing that I was able to help even a little bit in a handful of strangers’ lives is just incredible and reminded me of why I wanted to go into nursing in the first place,” Weiss said.
Kyle Lockhart, a third-year nursing major, did his vaccine clinical rotation at Hamdard Healthcare, a local federally qualified health center in Rogers Park near Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus.
Lockhart, 21, described working at this vaccine clinic as “a great experience” where he helped with paperwork, drew vaccines from vials and gave vaccine injections to patients.
“It was nice to see how people were trusting science and not only wanting to help themselves but protect others while protecting themselves,” Lockhart said.
He said he found the experience valuable — but not just for the practical skills.
“It benefitted my education not only through the actual clinical skills, like keeping a sterile field and having correct etiquette of injecting a patient, but also to give back to the community that’s been hosting us for three years,” Lockhart said.
Loyola junior Jaslin Nanua did her vaccine clinical rotation at Northwestern Memorial where she said she not only got the opportunity to administer the vaccine but also make connections with patients.
“The environment was so positive and everyone was so appreciative of the work we were doing,” Nanua, 20, said.
Nanua said this opportunity was unique not only because of the pandemic, but also because it allowed nursing students to practice more injections than in a standard clinical rotation.
Being able to participate in the COVID-19 effort has been especially meaningful for nursing students such as Nanua.
“It means everything,” she said. “To be part of history and to be part of this amazing medical milestone really speaks to our class and shows how hardworking we are.”