HealthFebruary 18, 2022

COVID-19 vaccination clinics provide unexpected learning opportunities for students

By: Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
As any nurse knows, nursing school is chock full of opportunities for hands-on learning experiences. But COVID-19 restrictions on in-person gatherings dramatically impacted traditional learning modalities—campuses closed, students were ordered to stay at home, and access to hospitals and other clinical sites was cut off.

However, some nursing students gained clinical experience in unexpected ways, including involvement in COVID-19 vaccination clinics. A recent article in the American Journal of Nursing details how students from Georgia Southern University gained unique nursing experience which augmented their traditional education.

Vaccine clinic becomes clinical site for students

After the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines, Georgia Southern University was designated as a closed point-of-dispensing facility for vaccine administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines point-of-dispensing facilities as “sites staffed and managed by partner organizations to dispense medical countermeasures only to their own populations while continuing normal operations during an emergency.”

The university’s vaccine allotments were made available to eligible staff members, students, and faculty. Many departments, including the School of Nursing, College of Public Health, Student Health Services, and others came together to coordinate and implement vaccine distribution. Vaccines were administered starting in February 2021 at two separate campus locations.

At first, vaccines were offered twice a week from faculty members who volunteered to man the clinics. At first, about 10 School of Nursing faculty members distributed vaccines along with other volunteers from other university departments. Then, nursing faculty members made the decision to replace some nursing students’ clinical hours by diverting them to vaccination clinics.

Approximately 40 nursing students participated in each clinic. According to nursing faculty, the objectives for participation focused on building and demonstrating skills related to several key areas, such as:

  • Assessment
  • Communication
  • Infection control
  • Safe medication administration
  • Teamwork

Working vaccination stations made for good experience

Nursing students manned several of the stations involved in vaccine administration. At the screening station, students used clinical judgment skills to review consent forms and screen prospective patients for vaccine eligibility, potential allergic reactions, and current illnesses. Many on this station were first-semester students requiring close faculty supervision. In some cases, new students were partnered with upper-level nursing students who observed and helped direct their actions.

At the vaccine distribution station, students administered injections and completed necessary documentation. They also worked in teams, interacting with physicians, nurse practitioners, security officers, and others. This allowed for the development of better communication skills so that the best outcome was achieved for each patient.

Finally, student nurses at the observation station monitored vaccine recipients for adverse events for 15 to 30 minutes. They performed focused assessments and helped determine when the recipient was safe to leave the clinic. Students also provided education about adverse reactions, being sure to inform each recipient about signs they should watch for and when they should seek out further medical care.

In another area of the clinic, student nurses worked along side faculty volunteers to prepare vaccines for administration.

Lessons learned from clinic participation

In total, over 350 nursing students participated in the university’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics. Many reported that they enjoyed having helped “stop the spread of the virus” and noted that they were able to practice skills they were learning in class and in simulation labs.

This effort showed that even unusual circumstances can still be used as learning opportunities. The vaccination clinics provided a way for nursing students to practice important skills, such as assessment and infection control, which apply to real-world healthcare settings. Additionally, nursing faculty members developed simulation exercises intended to reinforce the knowledge and skills gained at vaccination clinics.

The authors of the article note that the success of the vaccination clinics would not have been possible without nursing students. The experience enhanced students’ enthusiasm and responsibility for learning while increasing awareness of service-learning opportunities. All in all, this positive experience demonstrated how creativity can help supplement nursing education, even in unusual situations.

  1. AJN, American Journal of Nursing: January 2022 - Volume 122 - Issue 1 - p 44-47 doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000815428.23462.37
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Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
Freelance Health and Medical Content Writer, Wolters Kluwer Health
Sarah has over nine years’ experience in various clinical areas, including surgery, endocrinology, family practice, and pharmaceuticals. She began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside to help educate and inform healthcare consumers and providers.
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