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Nursing students “Stick it to COVID-19”

Vaccinating our community

Cizik School of Nursing students vaccinate UTHealth employees
Cizik School of Nursing students vaccinate UTHealth employees

Two Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth faculty members recently had an unusual opportunity to assess their students’ skills – by being on the receiving end of COVID-19 vaccinations. Both students who jabbed their professors’ arms passed with flying colors. 

Watch the video.

Nursing students and faculty wasted no time in volunteering to “Stick it to COVID-19” at McGovern Medical School once the Moderna vaccine became available over the winter break. In fact, Assistant Professor Linda Sheen, PhD, MSN, RN, “celebrated” New Year’s Eve by rolling up her sleeve for Pacesetter BSN student Lance Edwards, who she had taught to administer injections. 

“It was good that she was confident in her own work, really,” joked Edwards, a London native who practiced psychology in the United Kingdom, before relocating to the U.S. sent him back to the educational drawing board. 

Sheen teaches medication administration to first-semester students and was pleased to receive her shot from Edwards. “What better opportunity to see your students perform and demonstrate the skills you actually taught them?” she said. 

For Jamie Guijosa, another Pacesetter BSN student, the vaccination clinic provided an opportunity to meet one of her professors in person for the first time. Because didactic instruction went online during the pandemic, Guijosa had not yet had the chance to meet Assistant Professor Francine Snow, DrPH, MSN, RN, face to face until Dr. Snow sat down at her vaccination station. 

“She exemplified professionalism and humanity. Her injection skills were impeccable!” Dr. Snow said of her student. “I felt like I mattered and she was speaking to only me – her patient –and not the ‘me’ who was her leadership course faculty member.” 

Makita Franklin, RN, Clinical Nurse Educator for UT Physicians, ran the clinic at McGovern. She quickly reached out to the nursing school for help. 

“The year that [Hurricane] Harvey hit, we had students help us administer the flu vaccine,” she said. “They did such a wonderful job then that I knew they would do a wonderful job now.” 

The volunteer work of nursing students and faculty enabled UT Physician staff members to administer vaccinations at other sites in the Houston area, Franklin said. Meanwhile, the students benefited by learning from highly experienced nurses and earning clinical hours. 

Natasha Bardwell, RN, decided to go straight into Cizik School of Nursing’s RN-BSN program after earning her associate degree from Lone Star College and passing her NCLEX in July. She worked more than 50 hours at McGovern before the spring semester started to fulfill all of her community health nursing clinical requirements. Then in late January, she began her first job on an intermediate care unit in College Station with a large number of COVID-19 patients. 

“It was a great way to get back into things before I started my residency,” Bardwell said. 

Tasneem Waliullah, BSN, RN, moved to Houston from York, Pennsylvania, in 2018 specifically because she hoped to get into Cizik School of Nursing and become an adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. She gained most of her nursing experience in hospitals and was glad for the opportunity to work in a different kind of environment. 

“Nobody can tell the difference between our [undergraduate] nursing students and our nursing students who are becoming nurse practitioners,” Franklin said. “They don’t even know the difference between our students and our staff, so that tells you that the quality that our students are giving us is top-notch.” 

Everything ran smoothly on Waliullah’s first day at McGovern. However, Franklin noted that on some days, students practiced more than vaccination skills. Seats in the McGovern auditorium were marked for social distancing so patients could be observed for at least 15 minutes, and a few did experience reactions. 

Several other students are gaining experience administering injections at area hospitals, including Memorial Hermann and Methodist sites. Recent Cizik School of Nursing alumnus Casey Gay, BSN, RN, who now works on the orthopedic trauma unit at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, and was delighted when current student, Deybie Martinez, gave him his “big shot.” The two got to know each other when Gay tutored Martinez. 

As the semester progresses, opportunities for students to administer COVID-19 vaccines are expected to increase as more vaccine distribution sites open. The UT Physicians clinic has expanded and moved to the Cooley Center, where students, faculty, and staff continue to volunteer.


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