Nursing students receive COVID-19 vaccine

Alex Hopper, News Editor

UNA nursing students got the opportunity to receive the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 14. 

The Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions partnered with Helen Keller Hospital to distribute the vaccines. 

Provost Ross Alexander, and Associate Dean Tera Kirkman communicated with the hospital administration in order to secure the doses for the nursing program. 

Hospital President Kyle Buchanan spoke about this partnership in a statement to UNA. 

“Our partnership with UNA and its nursing students allows for the brightest students to learn and care for the Shoals alongside our team,” said Buchanan. “Providing this vaccination to them also allows us to know that those students are functioning in the safest way possible as we work through this pandemic.” 

President Kenneth Kitts also spoke about the partnership to Communications Director Michelle Eubanks. 

“UNA is proud to have this relationship with Helen Keller Hospital,” said Kitts. “This initiative provides an additional safety measure for students.” 

This new partnership ensured that nursing students and faculty, that regularly go into local hospitals as part of their training, will be protected when coming in contact with COVID-19 patients. 

However, both Dean Vicki Pierce and Kirkman ensure that taking the vaccine was a voluntary action by the students. 

“The faculty shared the information about how to receive the vaccine with the students along with the understanding that it was on a voluntary basis,” Kirkman said. “Students were asked to sign a declination form if they chose not to receive the vaccine so that we would know which students received the vaccine and which did not,” said Kirkman.  

“It was optional, no one was required, we did strongly encourage it,” said Pierce. “Because our hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients.” 

Pierce said that given the amount of COVID-19 patients the local hospitals have it is harder for the school to ensure that nursing students won’t come in contact with the virus. 

“So now we are really encouraging students to get the vaccine just to protect them because there is a greater likelihood that they will encounter a patient who does have COVID-19,” said Pierce.  

Three ACONHP students commented on receiving the vaccine. 

David Cunningham, a level three nursing student, said he feels positive about his experience with the vaccine. 

“I feel like the benefits far outweigh the risks,” said Cunningham. “It’s better to have done it.”

Cunningham said he experienced only mild side effects. 

“I had a slight fever and some muscle cramps,” said Cunningham. “Not anything to the level of the flu but, I could definitely tell.” 

Maggie Ruff, agrees that taking the vaccine, regardless of mild side effects, is essential. 

“My family has lost someone due to COVID-19 and multiple of my family members have been recently discharged from the ICU,” said Ruff. 

“When it comes down to it, I will do just about anything after seeing people I love go through such horrible experiences,” said Ruff. 

Ruff also said her side effects were mild. 

“I believe feeling under the weather for 24 hours or a couple of days is much better than being infected, possibly hospitalized, and continuing to spread the virus,” said Ruff. 

Another level three student, Brantley Jackson, spoke about her experience with the vaccine.  

“I had COVID, so I had a worse reaction than someone who hasn’t had it,” said Jackson. “I had a fever, chills, and some pain in my arm. 

“It was only painful for a day and I was fine after that,” said Jackson. 

Jackson states that she will feel much safer continuing her nursing education following receiving the vaccine. 

“I feel much safer going into the workforce,” said Jackson. “It makes me feel better that I am protected from the strain that has been going throughout the U.S.”

In addition to Helen Keller providing UNA students with the Moderna Vaccine, North Alabama Medical Center is also providing the students with fitted N95 face masks. 

“I feel very supported by the local hospitals and safe going into my clinicals,” said Jackson. “It makes a huge difference when the hospitals are backing you.”

“I am honored our local hospitals value us enough to provide us with this PPE,” said Ruff. “They treat us like their own because at the end of the day we are the future of healthcare.”

Pierce and Kirkman also believe the support of local hospitals is essential to the nursing program. 

“It’s wonderful to have the support of the hospitals,” said Pierce. “We value the hospitals because clinicals are as much part of nursing education as coming to the classroom,” said Pierce.   

“We couldn’t have the nursing program without the support of the hospitals,” said Pierce. 

“Nurses, as well as student nurses, are on the front lines. It is reassuring to know that we can continue to work together to provide protection for our students,” said Kirkman. 

“As well we can assist the nurses and their nursing team with the care of the patients,” said Kirkman. “It just shows that we have a good partnership we have developed over the years.”

The nursing students will go back to receive their second dosage at a 28-day interval. 

With an increase in vaccinations, there may be a return to normalcy in both education and healthcare.