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UW-Eau Claire nursing students are part of mobile COVID-19 vaccine teams

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire nursing student Sabrina Wilson is among Blugolds who volunteered to be part of a mobile COVID-19 vaccination team working to expand access to the vaccine in Wisconsin.

Some University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire nursing students are engaged in the all-hands-on-deck effort to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in the state.

Blugold nursing students are part of the mobile COVID-19 vaccination team program recently announced by Gov. Tony Evers to expand access to the vaccine in Wisconsin. As of Jan. 19, nearly 250,000 state residents had received a vaccination, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

A pilot vaccination clinic is in Eau Claire on Wednesday, Jan. 20, for frontline health care workers, including police and fire personnel.

Six nursing students have volunteered to be part of the vaccination teams that are staffed by Wisconsin National Guard members, state health workers and the UW System. In addition to the experience, students receive a $500 tuition credit for the spring semester for working 16 hours with the program.

Nursing students can play an important role in the rapid response to the highly infectious and deadly virus, says Dr. Pamela Guthman, assistant professor of nursing at UW-Eau Claire.

“We need to be aggressive in getting as many of our population immunized as soon as possible,” Guthman says. “Nursing students not only have the vaccination skills, but they have significant education in interpersonal and communication skills all of which are important when dealing with people, answering questions and providing patient education.”

Junior nursing student Sabrina Wilson, originally from China, volunteered because she sees the vaccination clinics as an opportunity to put her knowledge and nursing school skills to use helping the community fight the pandemic.

Wilson said the mobile site will allow her to learn more about the vaccination process, including screening, administering and patient education, and use her nursing school skills in a real-world situation.

“The pandemic has brought so much pain and suffering to our country and community,” Wilson says. “At this point, the two vaccines that the FDA approved are crucial for us to restore our life and protect our community.”

Dr. Linda Young, dean of UW-Eau Claire’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, is among the nursing school leaders who worked with UW System interim president Tommy Thompson and state agencies on the mobile vaccination team concept.

“The sooner we can get people vaccinated, the sooner we can get to herd immunity,” Young says. “That’s where we want to land and that’s going to take a great effort by many.”

The mobile vaccination teams work closely with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department to supplement vaccines being administered through local health care organizations and public health vaccine initiatives, Young says.

Many more UW-Eau Claire nursing students are expected to volunteer for the mobile vaccination teams once they become widely known. Young hopes to see the mobile clinic expand into eight teams that can help administer the vaccine to rural areas and smaller communities.

“They are living through an event they may not experience in their practice again,” Young says of nursing students. “Seeing the role of the nurse in a community setting — and how central the role of the nurse is — teaches them population health. They need to have that foundational knowledge of how to navigate it.”

UW-Eau Claire plans to add the mobile vaccination clinic work to nursing students’ clinical experience with all junior and senior students participating a minimum of 16 hours in vaccination efforts.

“The opportunity to have nursing students be on site, collaborate with our public health departments, see the interactions that occur between local, state and federal communication regarding vaccination dissemination and delivery, and collaborate with multiple entities (including emergency management, acute care, pharmacies, EMTs, first responders, retired health care professionals, etc.) to achieve population health is really important,” Guthman says.

Young praised the state for its work on the pandemic vaccinations.

“We’re in a pandemic,” Young says. “I am so impressed with the speed at which they are operating. Wisconsin is now able to transition from focusing on testing to vaccinations and getting them out quickly.”

For information, contact Dr. Linda Young at younglk@uwec.edu or Dr. Pamela Guthman at guthmapl@uwec.edu.