KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo nursing students play a vital role in ending the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteering thousands of hours to give vaccinations at community clinics.
More than 70 students, working in eight-hour shifts, have offered their services at the Howard County Health Department clinics at the Kokomo Event Center, and at sites at Logansport High School and Riverview Hospital. By the end of the semester, it will add up to about 1,500 volunteer hours.
Stephanie Pratt, clinical assistant professor of nursing, teaches the community health class that makes up the majority of the volunteers. She said students are gaining valuable experience working with real patients, while serving their communities.
“It’s a long day for them, but they are learning so much more than just how to give shots,” she said. “They are learning how to work empathetically with patients. There is so much going on mentally, physically, and even emotionally with the people they meet. Some people cry because they are afraid, or because they are so relieved to get this vaccination.”
Senior Kelly Alford is glad to be part of making a difference in the pandemic — in fact, a nurse she worked with at the health department told her they could not hold their clinics without them.
“I’ve seen first-hand the impact I can make as a nurse,” she said. “I’m thankful to be here right now, in this time, to give my time in this service.”
She’s found the experience rewarding.
“I like community nursing now that I’ve been doing this,” she said. “I love talking to the patients, and learning from the nurses there. It was nice to hear how thankful people were.”
Alisa Bowman, a senior from Sheridan, volunteered both in Howard County and at Riverview Hospital, and said she’s grown as a nurse through the service.
“I’ve definitely practiced using clinical judgment, and assessing patients, getting their past medical history and evaluating if it is safe for them to receive the vaccination,” she said. “I have a better understanding of the process behind vaccinations.”
She’s worked long days, with a constant flow of patients, and leaves tired at the end of the day, but Bowman said it’s worth the hard work.
“It’s definitely rewarding right now,” she said. “Watching some of our patients’ reactions, everyone is really excited, and thankful we are there doing this. It’s nice being able to help out during the pandemic, and provide something good.”
They are seeing community health in action, Pratt said.
“They are learning big organizational skills, like how you can take a clinic outside of the four walls of a health department and make it effective,” she said. “They are learning about problem solving, patient management, and so much more.”
The health department provided information for the students to be able to answer patient questions, and experienced nurses shared their knowledge too, helping the students build their skills and confidence. Nursing faculty appreciated the partnership with the Howard County Health Department, especially Kelly Carpenter, RN and immunization coordinator.
Pratt’s goal is for students to see that they don’t have to become community health nurses to make a difference.
“My whole goal in my class is that they become contributors, not just consumers, in the community in which they reside,” Pratt said. “Not all of them are going to be community home health nurses, but they all will be part of a community, in which they live and work. We want them to see how they can contribute.”