It’s a unique time to be in nursing education. Students and faculty from TCU’s Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences are gaining unprecedented experience and impacting the community significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.
They are partnering with the Tarrant County Public Health Department, Fort Worth Fire Department, city of Fort Worth, Baylor Scott & White and TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine to vaccinate residents of Fort Worth and beyond against COVID-19.
“Being able to join the vaccination effort is extremely rewarding because I finally felt like I was able to make a real difference in this pandemic,” said senior Missy Taylor. “Just being able to bring some sense of comfort or care to people I didn’t even know was such a blessing, and it was really special to see the sense of hope that was present at the vaccination sites.”
Taylor is one of 33 nursing students who have been at mass vaccination hubs since January completing their public health nursing clinical course this semester. This comes at a time when many nursing, medical and health students were focused primarily on simulated experiences to complete degree plans due to restrictions during the pandemic.
In collaboration with the community partners, TCU Nursing students and faculty are using a service-learning model to operate mass vaccination clinics through walk-in and drive-through hub formats.
During the week, they spend days at two different walk-in hubs: the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex and the Tarrant County Resource Connection. They work the screening, registration and vaccination stations alongside city, fire and public health employees. Each day, roughly 900 community members receive a vaccine at these walk-in hubs. Sharon Canclini, assistant professor of professional practice, and Gina Alexander, associate professor, supervise these students on-site and coordinate with partners to ensure efficiency and support interprofessional communication among the students, city employees, paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians, public health nurses and leadership.
TCU students have also supported the Farrington Field drive-through vaccination hub, which sees 2,000 to 3,000 community members vaccinated throughout the day.
“I feel so blessed to be able to be a part of the mass vaccination effort by Tarrant County. As nursing students, we learn about how to be involved in our community as registered nurses after graduating. However, we were presented with such an amazing opportunity to help our community while also representing TCU,” said senior Kelly Augustine. “Although I may have only personally vaccinated 100 to 200 people over the last couple of months, I know I contributed a part of a much larger effort. Being able to work at the vaccination hub is eye-opening. It truly allows us as students to make a difference and be a part of history.”
Mid-semester, the work came a little closer to home when TCU joined efforts with Baylor Scott & White Health to host a drive-through vaccination site on campus in the parking lot of Amon G. Carter Stadium. Dr. Danielle Walker, representing TCU Nursing, works with the TCU and Baylor Scott & White vaccination hub operations team to coordinate logistics, develop processes for TCU nursing and medical school student involvement and manage nursing student participation and supervision. On the weekends, TCU volunteers, medical school students and Baylor Scott & White employees join TCU Nursing to operate the drive-through hub. Thirty nursing students at all levels of the nursing program staff the event – assisting with screening, vaccinating and post-vaccine observation/monitoring. Almost half of the full-time TCU Nursing faculty, as well as some of the adjunct faculty, are volunteering to supervise at the weekend hub. The team effort is paying off, with 7,400 vaccinations administered at the site as of March 25.
“Having the opportunity to be a part of something as historical and important as the mass vaccination efforts Fort Worth is putting forward was truly so memorable,” said senior Maggie Schepelmann. “I feel proud to be a TCU Nursing student during this difficult time, reaching out into the community, spreading hope and really putting our mission into action to improve the health and well-being of our Fort Worth community members.”
TCU also received its own vaccine supply to distribute to members of the campus community. A team of 12 TCU Nursing students and four faculty operated a walk-in hub during Spring Refresh in partnership with TCU staff. They helped vaccinate approximately 300 Horned Frogs.
The TCU Nursing faculty have been an advocate for health throughout the pandemic, contributing to op-eds in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on vaccinations and sound public health practices. In addition, faculty have collaborated with partners at Lone Star College, Texas Tech University and Baylor Scott & White to create a COVID-19 vaccination training, featured on the Council of Public Health Nursing Organization’s website. But some of their most important work is promoting the interprofessional experiences to activate students’ desire for civic engagement and allow real-time application of public health nursing concepts.
“Being a part of the mass vaccination efforts in Fort Worth this semester has been historical and a great learning experience,” said senior Evelyn Mandel. “Our country has had a heavy burden to carry for over a year now, and I believe that the vaccine has given people hope of a lightened load. I am privileged to contribute to the spread of this hope.”