Texas A&M: In Time Of Great Need, Student Nurses Step Up To Vaccinate Community

As more groups of the population are moved to the front of the vaccine line – the Texas Department of State Health Services widened the eligibility pool this week to anyone 50 or older – the students from the College of Nursing are helping to keep the operation running.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, students from the College of Nursing, supervised by faculty members, cover the morning shift at the hub, which requires about 14 volunteer vaccinators per shift. Along with students from the Blinn College School of Nursing, 42 volunteer student nurses administer vaccines to the community each week.

“The College of Nursing is dedicated to saving lives through the selfless service of our faculty and students in COVID-19 vaccination administration,” said Dean Nancy Fahrenwald. “I commend our college community for the commitment to pandemic mitigation and safety while successfully learning and educating.”

The call for help went out at the start of the semester, when Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Nursing Education Sharon Dormire anticipated the need for the nursing workforce during the vaccination process. Through an initiative Dormire calls “Nursing’s Call to Action,” students in more senior courses were deployed to American Red Cross hubs.

Over the course of the spring semester, Dormire anticipates 316 students will have served 4,000 hours toward vaccination efforts. At the Brazos Center, students have primarily administered doses to community members – they have all completed foundational courses and completed modules about the vaccine – but they also help in a variety of other ways.

“As nurses, we do what needs to be done,” Dormire said. “We want our students to have that perspective. So they have also served as observers for individuals after receiving the vaccine, in documentation roles, and even cleaning stations between individuals.”

Aggies taking the “Transition to Practice” course will also soon observe and respond to other student vaccinators for signs of stress or fatigue. Too, they plan to observe individuals for stress as they anticipate vaccination and learn how to intervene appropriately to make them at ease.

female student holds out a vaccination card
About 316 students will have served 4,000 hours toward vaccination efforts over the course of the spring semester.
Mark Guerrero/Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications

For the American Red Cross, which recruits and manages all volunteers at the Brazos Center vaccine site, it was a “relief” to be able to tap into a ready and willing group of future nurses.

“The vaccinators, of course, are the most important piece of the puzzle for us,” said A.J. Reynold, executive director of Heart of Texas Chapter. “Otherwise, we are reliant on volunteer nurses and paramedics. It takes a lot of coordination. So to have that guaranteed group of people with A&M Nursing is a huge help to us.”

The vast majority of the people who run the hub at the Brazos Center are volunteers, including experienced nurses and medical professionals, paramedics and members of the National Guard, she said, adding that the student volunteers’ participation in the effort “exemplifies the values of Texas A&M.”

“It’s a great opportunity for the students to interact with the community,” Reynold said. “They’re seeing real patients, real people who live here, hearing their stories. I see the way they get to talk to people who are receiving care from the students, and that is something that is hard to replicate in a classroom.”

Dormire said the service at vaccination centers will be built into schedules through the calendar year. As needs change, she said students at the College of Nursing will remain ready to serve.

“We are in this effort for the long haul,” she said.