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TCU nursing student administers flu vaccine.
TCU nursing student administers flu vaccine.

This fall marks the 15th anniversary of the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences Annual Mass Influenza Vaccination clinic.

This year’s student-run flu clinic on Oct. 19 is expected to provide upwards of 3,500 vaccines and will also have the new Pfizer bivalent booster available to students, faculty and staff in the TCU Recreation Center basketball gym. Reservations by the hour will keep lines to a minimum and will allow vaccine doses to be reserved for specific hours of the day. Starting with only 500 dose distributions 15 years ago, the Annual Mass Influenza Immunization Clinic has now grown to deliver 3,500 flu vaccines in addition to the COVID vaccine and boosters.

The TCU flu clinic initiative began as an H1N1 flu pandemic prevention with an education campaign through a collaboration between Sharon Canclini, assistant professor in TCU Nursing, and the late Steve Kintigh, former director of campus recreation at TCU. The notion was to develop an annual immunization event using the skills of public health nursing students in their final semester to plan the clinic and safely deliver the vaccine to the TCU community. In addition, the nursing students would gain experience in marketing the programs and educating the community about influenza prevention.

Harris College Dean, Chris Watts, get his flu vaccine by TCU nursing student.
Harris College Dean, Chris Watts, get his flu vaccine by TCU nursing student.

The clinic is run in a triage-type environment with minimal equipment, while still meeting all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards and OSHA requirements for points of mass distribution. In the run-up to the clinic, the marketing and education teams create and distribute educational and marketing information for the clinic, which gives TCU Nursing students invaluable learning experience. Meanwhile, the Logistics team plans and develops the event in partnership with numerous community stakeholders. On the day of the event, both student groups function as one solid leadership team, organizing students and volunteers to deliver vaccines safely and efficiently to the community.

The student nurses also conduct pre-event “bubble-clinics” for at-risk populations like Speech Pathology students who must interact face-to-face with clients, and populations who may miss the Mass Influenza Vaccination event due to work schedule conflicts such as ROTC students in training and night shift employees. In addition, members of the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences faculty collaborate with the nursing students to perfect the skills of immunizations by allowing the students to vaccinate the faculty as a practice experience for the nurse teams.

Over the years, TCU’s flu clinic has sought to improve efficiency and reach more audiences with each new season. Its continued success has allowed nursing students to engage in service learning by linking student learning to community needs, thereby teaching young nurses civic responsibility, and caring for the community they serve.

Preventing the flu, starring you! poster

TCU’s flu clinic has been identified as a leader throughout the years, allowing Canclini to present with other TCU faculty at the Association of Community Health Nursing Educators Annual Institute in 2011. That year, the clinic administered 2,400 flu vaccines. At their conference, they emphasized the importance of, ironically, how to prepare for a pandemic. After administering almost 3,000 vaccines in 2020, they returned to present how they converted their flu clinic work into a COVID clinic campaign.

A few years ago, managing this mass immunization clinical experience during a pandemic would have been no easy feat. Luckily, the existing Service-Learning-based TCU Annual Mass Immunization Clinic served as a prototype for the pending COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Several iterations of the mass clinic were readily deployed including an outdoor event and the current COVID-adjusted indoor event.  The success of a flu clinic amid the pandemic resulted in reducing exposure time through technology and scheduling appointments at five minutes per dose, choreographing clinic behaviors like the seating of the consumers and nurses to limit face-to-face exposure, and limiting time in the clinic. Likewise, identifying partnerships within the community was essential.

Tarrant County Public Health has warned that this year’s influenza rates are likely to be much higher than in the past several years.  Likewise, the CDC states that COVID-19 continues to circulate along with Influenza. As a result, the CDC has determined that it is safe to take both influenza and COVID vaccines simultaneously in different arms.

Typically, the Mass Influenza Vaccination event takes place during the first week of October each year and is practiced as a training exercise should a point of mass distribution ever arise. Because of COVID-related supply chain issues, this year’s event has been delayed by two weeks. The TCU Annual Mass Immunization Clinic teams are looking forward to continuing this TCU tradition and serving the TCU community for years to come.