Duquesne University Nursing students are stepping up in local Pittsburgh communities to assist with COVID-19 vaccine administration. Jessica Messenger, a Second Degree BSN student, participated in a vaccination clinic in North Versailles, while seniors Alana Albertson and Katelynn Ziskind assisted at a site in Duquesne University’s neighboring Hill District community.
These experiences have dual benefits. Students are able to advance the health of their communities and practice nursing and public health skills in a community setting. In the Q&A below, all three students share about their experiences and why they’re getting involved.
Why are you assisting with vaccination efforts?
Alana: I volunteered because I want to give back to the community! Being in nursing school and also working as a patient care technician has allowed me to be a part of some amazing victories. I believe being a part of the vaccination effort is important. It is a way to help ensure community members are safely becoming vaccinated so they can see their families again.
Katelyn: The COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination efforts will be in future history books. It is crazy that we are living through such uncertain times and major medical research. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world. I think it is important to help get people vaccinated whenever possible. The more help we receive, the quicker we can hopefully lead relatively normal lives again and people can feel safe leaving their homes.
How did you learn about this opportunity?
Jessica: I had the opportunity to become involved through my Population Health clinical. This clinical is usually virtual, but we had the chance to go out into the field and give the community vaccinations!
Alana: The School of Nursing sent an email explaining the need for volunteers. I immediately signed up! Working as a patient care technician in the ICU, I work with many patients who have had COVID-19. It was important that I be at the vaccination clinic, working with the community to help protect them.
Is there a particular moment from the clinic that is memorable?
Alana: The vaccination clinic was a memorable success for everyone. The students who volunteered and the community of people that came together were wonderful. I had the opportunity to check people into the clinic. One woman expressed her feelings of gratitude and started crying, saying she hadn’t seen her daughter or grandchildren in such a long time. This vaccination clinic gave her the opportunity to be with them again safely. It was such a heartwarming experience, and I am so excited to see what the next step is to vaccinate our community.
Katelyn: The conversations I had with those who came to be vaccinated were so important to me. So many people were sharing how excited they were to receive the vaccine and how much it meant to them: People have not seen their families for a year; some have yet to meet new grandchildren; countless jobs have been lost; and many have suffered tremendously from mental health issues. You could see the happiness in their eyes, and the amount of gratitude I felt from everyone that came through the clinic made me feel like I made a huge difference.
Jessica: A few memorable moments happened throughout the day. One of my favorites was when a group came in from a deaf community. About 30 individuals needed vaccinations with only one interpreter. Instead of relying solely on the interpreter to help communicate with those waiting for the vaccine, I asked the interpreter to teach me some American Sign Language (ASL). I was then able to ask those before their vaccinations if they had any questions and give them a warning before administering their vaccination. It was memorable seeing how happy they were to receive their vaccination and to be able to communicate with me.
Another memorable moment was how excited an expectant mother was. She was not only getting her COVID-19 vaccine to protect herself and her baby, but it was also her baby’s “first vaccine!”
Will you volunteer again at clinics like this in the future?
Alana: Yes, I would absolutely volunteer at future clinics! This was a fun way to give back to the community and to get to know them on a deeper level. These clinics give people peace of mind, knowing that they are one step closer to being fully vaccinated and safe.
Why do you think it is important for individuals to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Katelyn: If people hope to get back to a normal lifestyle, then they need to get the vaccine as soon as possible. I understand that some people are unsure, but the likelihood of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to loved ones is much higher than anything bad happening as a result of the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is not a live vaccine, so they are not injecting any part of the virus into you when you receive it. Any potential side effects that occur after the vaccine (e.g., fever, nausea, etc.) simply means the vaccine is working. Think of it as your small part in fighting this pandemic.
What precautions do you take as a nursing student to help keep yourself and others safe?
Katelyn: I keep my circle very small and have been for the last year. It is very important in general, but extra important that I am not spreading any unnecessary germs to my patients in the hospital. I make sure that I still get my groceries delivered to me as often as possible, and I find myself constantly sanitizing my hands, which is an automatic action at this point.
Jessica: As a nursing student, I take many precautions. I’ve been limiting those I am in contact with, which is essential to protect the vulnerable hospital patients I see weekly during clinical rotations, who are already scared and anxious. They should have the peace of mind that their clinical care team is doing what they can outside of work to limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus.