Nursing students played a key role during vaccinations clinics last week at campuses in Hampton and Williamsburg.
Cindy Williams, vice president of Pharmacy for Riverside Health System, knows from firsthand experience the value of vaccination in controlling the coronavirus. Therefore, she didn’t hesitate when Thomas Nelson asked for Riverside’s help in hosting vaccination clinics at both its campuses.
“What we are seeing is that (vaccination) is very effective against serious illness, hospitalization and death,” she said, noting no vaccination is 100% effective. “Vaccination is really one of the best ways an individual can protect themselves, their loved ones and their community.”
The first in a series, clinics took place Aug. 17 at the College’s Hampton campus and Aug. 18 at its Historic Triangle campus. There was no charge for the shots, and the clinics were open to Thomas Nelson students, faculty, staff and the community. People were asked to pre-register, but walk-ins were accepted.
More than 20 people took advantage of the opportunity. Williams said those numbers are similar to ones at other clinics Riverside has held at community colleges.
“We’d obviously like to see those numbers higher,” she said. “I do think as we see the vaccine get full approval, which I think will happen in the next few weeks to a month, and as we see more vaccine mandates or requirements by employers or schools, I think we’ll continue to see the numbers go up.”
Some people received the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses, and others the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For those who will need a second dose, follow-up clinics are slated for September. However, people still can show up in September to get vaccinated even if it’s their first dose.
“We’re also going to offer to anybody else that wants to come,” Williams said. “We’ll offer first doses for anybody who’s interested, as well as Johnson & Johnson for those that may want to come and get the one-dose.”
She noted it’s up to each person as to which vaccine they receive. Some people prefer the one-shot vaccine because of the convenience or because they don’t like needles, but they seem to be in the minority.
“What we’re finding is that the majority of individuals still would prefer to get the Pfizer vaccine,” Williams said. “But with each clinic we hold, we do have a handful of individuals that say, ‘One and done for me.’ Since we have both vaccines available, we feel it’s important to offer both when we hold these types of community clinics.”
While benefitting those who were vaccinated, the clinics also gave Thomas Nelson nursing students, who worked alongside Riverside Health professionals, hands-on experience.
“They get to count this as clinical hours,” said Karen Lynch, an assistant professor of nursing at Thomas Nelson.
It also provided the students the opportunity to work directly with a pharmacist.
“We don’t get to interact with pharmacy as much as we have with Cindy,” Lynch said, noting Williams provided a briefing for the students and answered questions and concerns they had.
Seeing other team members in a different light, and “not just somebody behind a counter, but to see their knowledge,” was invaluable, said Lynch.
Paul Long, dean of Public Safety, Allied Health and Human Services at the College, said that wasn’t the only area that exhibited teamwork.
“This has been just a fantastic collaborative partnership from the moment I reached out to Riverside,” he said, adding the idea came in the spring at a meeting with Thomas Nelson President Dr. Porter Brannon and cabinet members. “They were 100 percent receptive and essentially took the attitude of, ‘Tell me what you need from us and we’re going to make it happen.’ We had the same attitude.”
Williams said Riverside has done similar clinics with other community colleges and high school districts.
“I think it’s really important to take the clinics to where the individuals are,” she said. “We found that to be very successful in our other school clinics that we’ve held in the area. So when we received the call, we were happy to step up and partner and work with Thomas Nelson to get the clinics off the ground.
“It’s something we’re very used to doing,” Williams added.
Long was appreciative of Riverside’s efforts.
“Without them, we couldn’t make it happen,” he said.
For those who couldn’t attend the vaccine clinics, they can visit the Vaccinate Virginia website for additional free COVID-19 vaccination locations, many of which are located at regional or local health department facilities on a rotating schedule. And check back at tncc.edu for updates on the September clinics.