UCA nursing students have volunteered at Conway Regional for the past two weeks administering the COVID-19 vaccine to patients after receiving their own vaccination.

“The School of Nursing is very proud to be able to offer this service to the Conway community,” said the Director of the School of Nursing Dr. Susan Gatto.

Nursing students volunteered the last week of January and the first week of February to administer vaccines at Conway Regional.

“The faculty and students have gladly given their time, volunteer and clinical hours, to make sure that we are an active part of the healthcare system to provide protection for our community,” said Gatto.

Within the first clinical week, 69 nursing students and 8 faculty members gave a total of 719 injections and a combined total of 210 volunteer hours. Of the combined 210 volunteer hours, 26.5 belonged to faculty members and 192.5 belonged to nursing students, said the UCA Community Nurse Instructor Annette Gartman.

“We are set to give a total, just from the community health nursing, [of] 1,122 student hours,…which equates to 1,000s of vaccines,” said Garman.

Gartman said, “our students are not organizing or planning anything, we are merely just using the shot that Conway Regional already organizes and plans for people to come in.”

Compared to other vaccines, Gatto said the COVID vaccine must be handled with care due to the fact that “the serum is a little bit more volatile.”

The vaccine “has to be transported very carefully so Conway Regional pharmacists have been handling all of the vaccines serum for us,” said Gatto.

“We also do patient education where we tell them what signs and symptoms they should expect and when they have to come back for their second dose,” said Gatto.

“I think of the hundreds of shots that we’ve given so far, we have not seen any allergic reactions,” said Gatto.

All eligible UCA nursing students received their first dose of the vaccine on January 15 or 19 at Conway Regional Health System and were receiving their second doses last week, said Gatto.

“Our nursing faculty actually helped give all of those injections to [Conway Regional’s] staff. Because of our partnership with Conway Regional, we were able to work with them to provide the vaccine to our 1A eligible students,” said Gatto.

1A eligible students are “students who are exposed to patients who could potentially be infected by COVID or eligible for vaccination, as deemed by the Arkansas Department of Health,” said Gatto.

However, while the Pfizer vaccine is “about 95% effective, [there is still] a 5% chance of contracting COVID-19. So our students are still wearing all the PPE.” said Gatto.

“Throughout all of our clinical hours, none of them have been exposed because they’re wearing the proper protective equipment and will continue to wear that protective equipment,” said Gatto.

“I was very excited to get the vaccine. I am very excited for the protection, but also for the efforts that we have towards herd immunity for our whole community,” said Gartman.

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