“We are One UConn. … I commit to do my part to protect the health and safety of myself and those around me.”
UConn students have upheld that promise – the UConn Promise – since March. Recently, School of Nursing students took that vow of caring for others a step further, by volunteering to administer COVID-19 vaccines at UConn Health over the semester break.
“This is a historic moment, and I am so proud of our students for giving their time and skills,” Dean Deborah Chyun says. “What an experience for them, knowing that they have played such an important role in containing the coronavirus and protecting their fellow health care workers.”
From Jan. 4 to 15, around 20 students helped vaccinate UConn Health employees and other front-line workers, and, in turn, gained vital experience that will help them throughout their nursing careers.
“We initially had 85 undergraduate and graduate students express interest in volunteering, as well as a handful of faculty,” Chyun says. “Due to scheduling, not all were able to participate, but that level of caring speaks volumes about our students.”
In UConn Health’s Keller lobby, the students could be found administering vaccines and observing patients to monitor for any adverse reactions. A faculty member supervised and guided the students as needed.
“There was one occasion where an individual felt dizzy post-vaccination and required further evaluation,” says Amanda Moreau, a clinical coordinator and instructor with the School of Nursing. “The student played a crucial role in identifying that the individual did not feel well and initiated the proper protocol to call for additional medical assistance. Although such reactions are rare, we have to be prepared if they arise.”
Normally, nursing students don’t administer that many injections in their clinical training, but now Kelsey MarcAurele and Rebekah Gerber are pros.
“The School of Nursing clinical instructors and the pharmacists working at the clinic were wonderful,” says MarcAurele ’22 (NURS). “They let me practice on an orange, gave me pointers on injecting, and made me feel comfortable the whole time. I can now say I am confident in my ability to give intramuscular injections, as I gave almost 200 in three days.”
And those 200 doses are helping turn the tide in the pandemic.
“It was easy to get lost in the procedure in the moment, but as I reflect back, I realize that these vaccines will save so many lives,” says Gerber ’22 (NURS). “It is an honor to have played a very small role in distributing the vaccines.”
With Connecticut’s plans to vaccinate millions of people before the end of 2021, School of Nursing students may be called on again to help – and they say they’re ready.
“If UConn Health asked for help in the future, I would not hesitate to sign up again,” Gerber says. “I have learned not only how to administer the vaccines, but also how to better communicate when someone is nervous about the injection.”
MarcAurele agrees: “As we move forward, there will need to be a lot of public education about the vaccine and why vaccination is so important to limit the spread of COVID-19. I would be happy to help in any way possible.”
Sometimes, helping in any way possible means photographing the moment for the patient.
“I was often asked to take pictures of individuals receiving their vaccines so they could document their participation in this historic experience and encourage others to receive their vaccines as well,” Moreau says. “Overall, the environment was positive and uplifting. Despite the hospital being inundated with COVID-19 cases, the vaccination clinic is a glimmer of hope.”