“Young people want to be a part of something meaningful, and this pandemic shined a light on the nursing profession,” Sharon Canclini, assistant professor of professional practice and site volunteer, says.
From the very beginning, faculty from the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences have played a key role in TCU’s pandemic response.
For 12 years, TCU Nursing has helped design and implement the university’s annual flu immunization clinic. In 2020, the clinic successfully vaccinated over 3,000 TCU students, faculty and staff — with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 protocols firmly in place.
“Because of Nursing’s relationships and experience — specifically with mass immunizations and now COVID protocols — we were asked to be a part of the planning for the TCU/Baylor Scott & White Health hubs as well as TCU campus vaccination efforts,” said Danielle Walker, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing.
In total, 24 nursing faculty and 220 nursing students volunteered during the TCU/BSWH drive-thru clinic.
“Nursing students and faculty have the skills required to manage the administration of the vaccine as well as the expertise for clinic development, traffic flow, patient education, contingency planning and administration,” Walker said.
It was an all-hands-on-deck COVID-19 vaccination effort. Nursing students enrolled in clinical courses served as vaccinators but were also cross trained to provide pre-vaccine screening and post-vaccine monitoring. Nursing students not yet taking clinical courses served as support personnel, helping with observation and registration and serving as scribes.
“This is exactly what our nursing students are trained to do — provide the care a person or community needs, no matter who they are or where they are,” Walker said. “Beyond the nursing specific knowledge, skills and attitudes, we also instill in our students the tools needed for them to act as responsible citizens and ethical leaders. Our nursing students stepped up to the plate and utilized their training and skills beautifully.”
For students, volunteering at the clinics was a deeply personal way to help their peers during the pandemic.
“Our nursing students have been in the hospitals working during the pandemic throughout the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021,” Walker said. “They have seen firsthand the impact of COVID on other health care providers. They have watched as their peers began work on COVID units and in hospitals, strained under the weight of the pandemic. As nursing students, this was a way to help their health care provider community — they could help prevent people from needing hospital care related to COVID by getting our community vaccinated. One person at a time.”
Unwavering in their dedication, Horned Frog nursing students were tirelessly committed to the vaccination push.
“They saw the value in our efforts and knew they had a unique skill set within the TCU community. They served on weekends, on ‘off from school’ days and even directly before and after exams. They gave up extracurricular events and served in all kinds of weather conditions,” Walker said. “Our students also were helping in the hospital and city/county vaccination clinics throughout the spring semester.”
Nursing is a rigorous major, and Harris College faculty work hard to ensure TCU students are prepared with the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to provide safe and effective patient care. The nursing program uses a service-learning model for education, and students are actively involved in communities while learning — so they were ready for the challenge, Walker said.
Gina Alexander, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing, agreed.
“Community engagement is at the core of the public health nursing didactic and clinical coursework that students complete in their final semester of our nursing curriculum, so mass vaccination opportunities reinforced public health nursing science, practice and advocacy,” she said.
It also sparked new collaborations.
“In addition, this experience reinforced the need to continue to advocate for nurses as well as underserved populations,” said Sharon Canclini, assistant professor of professional practice. “In the classroom, we encourage growth of the public health workforce, develop and maintain critical interprofessional relationships and teach young nurses how to use their voices to advocate for themselves and others.”
Canclini’s students have shared how proud they were to serve the community during a critical time.
“They will forever be reminded of this historical response to the global pandemic of 2019,” she said. “I believe this experience will impact this generation of nurses much like the AIDS epidemic impacted earlier generations of nurses.”
TCU nursing enrollment is already on the rise. Pre-pandemic, the program admitted about 800 students with around 450 in clinical coursework. Post-COVID, the number of admitted students is close to 850, with almost 500 in clinical coursework.
“Young people want to be a part of something meaningful, and this pandemic shined a light on the nursing profession,” Canclini said.
The three professors couldn’t be more proud of the nursing volunteers for their commitment to serving TCU and area communities.
“This experience has made me very proud and fulfilled me deeply,” Walker said. “As a TCU alumna and a faculty member, I am so proud that TCU had the foresight, ability and expertise to partner with and provide for TCU and the larger Fort Worth community. Through the hubs, I met and developed relationships with people that I never knew before. I had the privilege of witnessing them apply their skill set and expertise in an entirely different way than ever before. It was amazing to watch so many TCU faculty and staff come together to provide for our TCU community.”
As a public health nurse and former Tarrant County Public Health employee, Alexander has extensive experience in vaccination. Every year, health departments are inundated by the back-to-school rush for vaccination, but those overwhelming moments pale in comparison to the mass vaccination hubs, she said.
“The COVID-19 vaccination campaign was unlike any other, and I am so proud of my TCU colleagues and students, fellow public health nurses and all health care professionals and volunteers across our nation,” Alexander said. “We used our skills to advocate for our community and for the value and importance of public health and prevention. I am excited to continue the momentum we have to enhance existing partnerships and pursue new initiatives that will empower our community toward better health outcomes for all.”
For Canclini, the experience illuminated the power of what can be.
“In all the chaos of a global pandemic and misinformation, our community and many others were able to stand up mass clinical sites and deliver vaccines under all sorts of adverse conditions,” she said. “Barriers were addressed with advocacy. Problems were combated with agility, flexibility and creativity. And, at the end of the day, the teams were successful, satisfied and even joyous — albeit a bit tired,” Canclini said.
“I would also like to thank the community for placing their trust in TCU Nursing to provide this vaccine at this critical time,” she added. “Our students were treated with such respect and kindness from our communities that this served to reinforce and confirm their desire to become highly qualified nurses.”
Read more about how TCU Nursing had an exponential impact on vaccination efforts.
The following is a list of Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences volunteers who participated in the TCU/BSW vaccination hub, as well as the TCU vaccination clinic and other local vaccine sites:
Allie Grace Ozburn
Carol Santos Morales
Faith van Haaster
Margaret “Annie” Shull
Mary Claire Wilson
Mary Elizabeth Schuppenhauer
Beth Rogers (Ph.D. Student)
Dennis J. Cheek
Hannah Pierce (MSN student)
Kristen D. Priddy