FSC's Nursing Students Help Administer COVID-19 Vaccines at Local Clinics

Mar 18, 2021

by Greg Williams
Publications Editor

Students from Florida Southern College’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program are partnering with Lakeland Regional Health and the Polk County Department of Health to administer COVID-19 vaccines locally.

Nursing student
Aubrey Valinote of Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, a nursing student in Florida Southern College’s Class of 2021, is one of many in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program who have assisted at local COVID-19 clinics. Valinote and the other students are not yet licensed as registered nurses and do not meet the criteria to receive the vaccination as healthcare providers, said Professor Cheryl Conley: “Yet, they show up for clinic with smiles on their faces, ready and willing to serve the public. It speaks to the heart of nursing and to the type of students we have at Florida Southern.” (Photo from Lakeland Regional Health)

Juniors and seniors from FSC’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences have been assisting with the operation of local vaccine clinics at Fontaine Gills Family YMCA in Lakeland — working eight-hour shifts during which they provide vaccination injections, handle intake and screenings, and process paperwork — on more than a dozen scheduled dates, starting at the end of January and continuing through at least the end of March.

“FSC is proud to have our students supporting local efforts to administer the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Linda S. Comer, professor of nursing and dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. “Through their involvement, our student nurses are making a significant contribution to the protection of our community and its vulnerable populations as we confront this public health threat.”

As vaccines were becoming available throughout Florida, Lakeland Regional Health reached out to FSC and other area nursing schools to ask for their help as community partners in the operation of vaccination clinics. Faculty members have monitored as many as 10 nursing students from Florida Southern during each scheduled vaccination clinic.

“We are so grateful for the support we have received from our community to ensure swift vaccine administration,” said Sarah Bhagat, senior vice president and COO of Lakeland Regional Health Physician Group. “Our relationship with Florida Southern College not only allows for nursing students to receive hands-on experience in administering vaccinations during a pandemic but it also assists Lakeland Regional Health in administering thousands of vaccines in a timely manner.”

Nursing schools throughout the nation have pledged their support to deploy students and faculty to assist with vaccination efforts that will help protect their communities.

During 2020, restrictions and cancellations related to COVID-19 disrupted many internships and in-person clinical experiences that normally would allow seniors to complete their final-semester nursing practicum course, which provides hands-on experience through supervised practice in a wide variety of healthcare settings. Seventeen of FSC’s senior nursing students will gain between 30 and 40 hours of experience through their work at the clinics, allowing them to meet the required 120 hours for their practicum course. 

“This was a great opportunity for the students to participate in community-health nursing, where they are working with healthy individuals to try to keep the population safe by fighting the spread of the coronavirus,” said Linda Foley, Florida Southern’s BSN program director.

Mary Leavitt, a senior nursing student from Robertsdale, Alabama, praised the proficiency of the healthcare professionals who staffed the local clinics: “No one had a long wait. It was like a well-oiled machine!”

Emily Hough of Bushnell agreed, saying her shift at the YMCA clinic was well organized and extremely productive, delivering nearly 500 vaccinations between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Within minutes of arriving for their scheduled appointments, individuals were checked in and had received their vaccines,

During her first shift at a clinic, Violet Nazirbage of Lakeland was able to deliver a large number of vaccines, “and the second time, I was with a pharmacologist, so I got to see the process while they drew up the doses. I put the syringes together and put the labels on them.”

Rachael Martin of Modesto, California, recalled the positive tone of the experience, as local residents age 65 and over were arriving to receive their vaccines: “They were all so excited. It was so sweet; these couples would go through the YMCA holding hands.”

These seniors from the School of Nursing and Health Sciences are among the Florida Southern students who have assisted at vaccination clinics in Lakeland. (Photo by Tara Johnson)