Gonzaga nursing majors of junior and senior status who are currently working in a clinical setting received news on Jan. 14 that they can now receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
According to Kaye Slater, a lecturer in the School of Nursing and volunteer at Providence, nursing students who qualify for the vaccine received an email that allows them to sign up for an appointment to receive their first dose. After they sign up, they will immediately be scheduled for their second dose, Slater said, which will be three weeks after their first dose.
“[The Pfizer vaccine is] about 90% effective, so that’s something we have to remember, all of us, is that there’s still some chance that we could get sick and hopefully with the vaccine we will be more protected from another serious complication,” Slater said.
Nursing faculty who are going to be in clinical settings supervising and interacting with students are also now eligible to receive the vaccine, Slater said.
As a nurse, Slater is qualified to fill many of the volunteer positions at Providence, and has volunteered at the station where the vaccine is administered. She also said she has given injections of the vaccine to GU nursing students.
Phoebe Tang, a junior nursing student, said she is excited to get the vaccine and be able to better keep her roommates and friends safe. Since she and other nursing students do their clinicals in a hospital setting, they are exposed to more people and it can be harder to social distance around patients when they are learning skills, she said.
“I think it’s really great that the Gonzaga nursing students are able to take the vaccine, just because like health care workers we’re going to be in there working with vulnerable populations,” Tang said.
COVID-19 altered the way nursing students do their clinicals since places such as schools where nursing students would do vision and hearing testing and geriatric and long-term care facilities were closed, said Susan Edwards, the director of the Resources and Simulation Center in the department of nursing.
According to Edwards, some activities that nursing students would normally do were replaced with virtual simulations and mannequin-based simulations.
“Our students have been very flexible, and they’ve been really great at embracing all the experiences that we’re getting in, and I know many of them are excited to be back in the hospitals and excited to get their vaccines,” Edwards said.
Slater also said that even after receiving both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, those who have been vaccinated still need to wear masks, since it is unknown whether someone who has been vaccinated can still transmit COVID-19.
"[Those who have been vaccinated] could potentially have it in our airways and exhale that, even though internally our body would be fighting it off and not letting us get sick or would make us get less sick,” Slater said.
Tang said that nursing students have to be screened every time they go into a clinical setting. They also have to learn skills and be more cautious outside of the hospital, since they need to be aware that they are responsible for whatever they bring into it. Since nursing students are working with vulnerable populations, they have to be aware that their position requires they be extra cautious.
“Even being vaccinated I don’t think that’s going to stop any of the nursing students from being as cautious," Tang said. "I think because we’re all going into a health care related profession, we’re all very aware of the repercussions of our actions so being vaccinated wouldn’t change the way we act."
Lillian Piel is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @lillianpiel.