BRADFORD – Nursing students at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford are helping educate the community about the coronavirus and its vaccines, including giving it to residents.
On Tuesday, six full-time registered nurses who were undergraduate degrees were giving COVID-19 vaccines at the clinic in Pitt-Bradford’s West Washington Street facility, formerly St. Bernard School.
For Michelle Garlitz, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing on May 2, administering COVID-19 vaccines in clinics has reinforced her commitment to her profession as a nurse.
“I love to see people’s expressions on their faces,” said Garlitz. “I’ve never seen anyone so happy to be shot by me.”
Garlitz and five of her fellow nursing students are immersed in the world of COVID-19 vaccines this semester as part of a high-level Advanced Clinical Practicum to build skills in leadership, analysis, and research.
Each year, nurses pursuing their BSN study a public health research topic to provide useful information to the community. Previous work has focused on vaccination rates and food insecurity.
Dr. Jean Truman, Associate Professor of Nursing, knew that this year her focus should be on providing factual information and best practices to members of the Bradford community to help prevent people from contracting coronavirus.
At the time she picked the topic last fall, the Bradford area hadn’t been badly hit by the virus and there was a lot of misinformation that needed to be corrected. Truman spoke to the Bradford Regional Medical Center Quality Officer and Pitt-Bradford Graduate Dr. Jill Owens, who supported the project.
Since January, students have been evaluating the ever-changing literature on coronavirus vaccines and best practices for containing the spread of COVID-19. Each selected an area to study and recorded a video of public service announcements.
Students also worked with BRMC pharmacist Laurie Schiafone, infection prevention manager Julie Kenyon, and educator Amanda Brzezinski. They learned what decisions hospital staff had to make when distributing the vaccine and how it was regulated due to availability bottlenecks.
The students also gave vaccinations in weekly clinics to health care workers at the BRMC.
They became the point of contact for family and friends with questions. “It’s nice to be able to explain things to them,” said Ashley Campbell, a student nurse from Woodbury, NJ
One of the challenges of the project was to evaluate information that was constantly updated. Kane student Samantha Walker said they learned to assess whether sources of information were credible.
Another problem was that some things are not yet known about the virus and vaccines, Clifton Heights student Shaniah Hudson said. “People don’t like not having answers to questions,” she said.
Campbell said, however, that all of her research made her very confident in the answers she was giving.
McClure’s Hailee Weader agreed. “You really need to know and be confident about what information you are telling people,” she said.
Of the six students who completed the Bachelor of Science program in nursing this spring, half have already found jobs that they will start after graduation.
Weader will be a nurse in the intensive care unit at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Hudson will work as a nurse in Charlotte, NC, and Walker will return to her hometown of Kane to work at UPMC.