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State partnership grant brings $40K to community vaccination efforts

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences are collaborating with state and county agencies to bring COVID-19 vaccine clinics to the community, the first of which was on March 3 in Zorn Arena.

Nursing student giving vaccination in Zorn Arena

Senior nursing student Alexandra Tupy administered vaccines to relieved patients in Zorn Arena, some of whom wanted to chronicle the momentous occasion with a selfie image.

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines has brought hope and relief around the U.S. and world, and for University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire nursing students, it has presented a unique opportunity to be literally “hands-on” in the process of bringing an end to this global health crisis.

UW-Eau Claire on Feb. 9 was awarded a $40,000 grant through the Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) and a collaboration between the UW-Madison School of Nursing and four UW System nursing schools. The WPP COVID-19 Response Grant allows the UW-Madison School of Nursing to partner with community agencies and nursing schools at UW-Eau Claire, UW-Green Bay, UW Oshkosh and UW-Stevens Point to contribute in the effort to successfully vaccinate Wisconsin residents.  

Dr. Linda Young, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UW-Eau Claire, feels tremendous gratitude for the opportunity students will have to both learn practical public health skills and be part of helping to end the pandemic.

“I am delighted for the WPP grant funding that has been extended by UW Madison School of Nursing to the other UW nursing programs to support the vaccination work,” Young says. “These funds have already made possible the hiring of Dr. Shelley-Rae Pehler, professor emerita, as vaccine coordinator for our college. We have not determined the use of the remaining dollars but are looking to possibly use them to assure the support of our students in the community and campus vaccine clinics with temporary clinical faculty hires for the clinics.”

Dr. Debra Jansen, associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, describes the integral role that Pehler will fulfill in the execution of the grant objective in rolling out vaccines in the community.

“In her facilitating role, Pehler is developing systems and mechanisms to help identify and recruit undergraduate and graduate nursing students, faculty, staff and emeriti faculty/staff to assist with vaccination efforts both on campus and in local communities. In some cases, this work will fulfill requirements of nursing clinical courses, in others it will be considered strictly a volunteer effort,” Jansen says.

“Additionally, Dr. Pehler has created an online module in our Canvas Learning Management System to serve as a vaccination resource for students and faculty/staff in Eau Claire and in Marshfield.”

The March 3 vaccination clinic in Zorn Arena provided the first chance for UW-Eau Claire nursing students to play a role in administering vaccines, and the gravity of the moment was not lost on the eager Blugold pre-service nurses.

Student nurses working vaccine clinic on Zorn Arena

Senior nursing students Briunna Wells (left) and Amanda Koenig worked as a team on March 3 in the prepping, administering and proper documenting of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19.

“It was surreal to be a part of this vaccination clinic,” says senior nursing major Alexandra Tupy of New Prague, Minnesota. “I was in awe just being able to hold the Moderna vial knowing how impactful it is. Thinking back to a couple of months ago, the thought crossed my mind that nursing students might be contacted to help with the demand for vaccinations; however, walking into the clinic in my UW-Eau Claire scrubs knowing I was about to give the COVID-19 vaccine was chilling.”

Similarly awestruck by the importance of this experience, senior Amanda Koenig is grateful for the opportunity to contribute in such a concrete way to ongoing efforts of health care workers worldwide in saving lives over the last 12 months.

“This pandemic has truly just confirmed my desire to be a nurse and enter the healthcare profession,” says Koenig, a Waunakee native. “It has highlighted the impact nurses have caring for their patients bedside, especially during times where they cannot be surrounded by their loved ones. Nurses are trusted professionals and we play an important role in educating the public with accurate information regarding the COVID-19 vaccinations.”

For students earlier on in their BSN progression, like junior Charlie Kampfer from Scandia, Minnesota, the vaccine clinic opportunity is even more rare and helps to equip Blugold nursing students with the clinical skills needed to move forward in their program with confidence, and to know they’re making a real impact in the health of their community.

Male nursing student talking to vaccine patient in Zorn clinic on March 3

For junior nursing student Charlie Kampfer, the opportunity to administer vaccines and educate clients about the injections was an extremely fulfilling way to use his training and growing clinical skills.

“I was in my first semester of the nursing program when the campus was closed, and classes were moved online. The vaccine rollout was something I never thought I would be doing when I started nursing school,” Kampfer said. “The nursing faculty have worked hard to prepare us for this opportunity. They have helped us to make the best of all aspects of the pandemic learning situation, and to ensure that we are all successful.”

“Health care workers have all gone through a lot this past year but seeing how they have all come together and worked so hard to fight COVID-19 has shown me that this is the right profession for me.”