In late January, the UW System announced a tuition credit reimbursement of $500 for nursing students working at COVID-19 vaccination sites to help encourage the distribution of vaccines as well as further support nursing students.
“Nursing Deans across the UW System met with system leaders in November 2020 to identify ways nursing students could be involved in assisting with the pandemic,” Dean of the Nursing College Judy Westphal said. “Two initiatives were developed.”
The first initiative provided bedside assistance in Wisconsin health care organizations from certified and registered nursing individuals, while the other initiative provided assistance during the vaccine roll-out.
“2020 was the year of the nurse and the pandemic has certainly highlighted the importance of nursing,” Associate Professor Bonnie Nickasch said. “It is exciting for students to see that what they are learning is already useful to their community.”
Nickash has enjoyed volunteering at vaccine sites throughout Wisconsin. Depending on one’s background and training, students and or licensed nurses may be used in many different
capacities at vaccine sites.
The main roles being staffed include registration, vaccinators and monitoring roles.
UWO senior nursing student Chloe Jostad volunteers at local clinics in Oshkosh as well as ones in Menasha.
“Each clinic looks much different than the next, from the layout, timing of appointments to which vaccine manufacturer we are using,” Jostad said. “However, all the clinics have been extremely successful thus far and I look forward to helping out at as many as I am able to.”
A typical day at a vaccine site for Jostad is being orientated to the space, shown the supplies and emergency kits and ultimately being paired up with registered nurses to administer vaccines to the community.
Prior to providing patient care, all nursing students have to demonstrate safe and competent care in the classroom setting learning about the vaccine and how they can best educate patients.
The nursing students administering the vaccines are overseen and monitored by licensed individuals. This is usually a registered nurse employed by the local healthcare organization or a UWO faculty member who is a licensed RN with a minimum of a masters degree.
If an allergic reaction occurs, these licensed individuals are prepared to keep the patient safe.
Jostad explained that in the nursing program, there is a specific semester that students learn how to administer intramuscular (IM) injections. IM injections are how a vaccine is administered. This training occurs in the second semester of the program, also known as “Junior 1.”
After students have been checked off on administering IM injections, they are then able to volunteer at vaccine clinics, such as the flu clinic on campus or COVID-19 clinics in the community.
Director of Pre-Licensure Program and Associate Professor Jason Mott stated that UWO has had about 250 undergraduate students involved or will be involved in this program.
“I think it’s great [students are volunteering],” Mott said. “They will get a lot more public health experience than most people before them have had.”
To be eligible for the tuition credit, students must present a letter verifying the hours worked to their campus financial aid office no later than March 31, 2021. Students must work a minimum of 16 hours, or two days as a COVID-19 vaccinator between January 1, 2021 and March 31, 2021
Students who qualify will receive the $500 tuition credit at the end of the Spring 2021 semester.
“This tuition reimbursement is an amazing opportunity, and I am so thankful to Dean Westphal of the College of Nursing and UW-System President Tommy Thompson for making this possible for so many nursing and other college students in the state of Wisconsin,” Jostad said. “Because of this reimbursement, I can begin to pay back some of the interest on my student loans and take out a smaller loan amount for my last semester here at UWO.”