Donning PPE to help others

Clinical opportunities for nursing students, testing opportunities for students and staff

Annika Dahlberg is a junior nursing major.

A USF nursing student administers a vaccine at the Koret Health and Recreation Center’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Spring 2021. PHOTO COURTESY OF USF WIDEN.

As we begin our first in-person semester in over a year, all eyes remain on our ever-changing COVID-19 policies. Currently, the University requires proof of vaccination with exceptions for entrance into buildings on campus, mandatory masking indoors, and contact tracing and testing for those believed to be exposed to the virus. 

As one of many USF nursing students entering the hospital setting amidst a pandemic, I feel the impact of COVID-19 beyond the walls of our campus. For many students in my year, this will be our first time entering clinical sites, which allow us to have hands-on experience with patients. The USF School of Nursing and Health Professions (SONHP) is one of nine schools in California with a direct entry into the nursing program, meaning that most of us expected to start clinicals back in the beginning of our sophomore year, rather than waiting until our junior year. 

Some of us have not had any in-person experience, while others have spent very limited time at the bedside. For me and many of my peers, this feels like a huge disadvantage to our learning experience. I spent a semester without clinical experience while some of my peers were in clinicals, and I saw the discrepancies between how we were applying what we were learning. Imitating an injection on an orange is not the same as giving vaccinations to real people. 

And this isn’t unique to the students in my grade. Almost every nursing student has felt the impact of COVID-19 on our clinical opportunities. We are no strangers to the simulated patients on the computer that are supposed to be substitutes for real patients out in the world. There are certain things that cannot be learned through a computer. We need real-world opportunities.

This is why I propose an on-campus, student-staffed, COVID-19 testing site.

For Junior 1 semester students like myself, the focus is on “community health.” USF is unique in that it meets the California Board of Registered Nursing requirements for a Public Health Nursing certification. The services of a certified PHN in part include, “control and prevention of communicable disease” and “outreach screening, case management, resource coordination and assessment, and delivery and evaluation of care for individuals, families, and communities.” Some of us are still left without clinical sites for the upcoming semester. 

This is why I propose an on-campus, student-staffed, COVID-19 testing site.

Although the University is working to get everyone a site, it means we are stuck learning online through Virtual Simulations (Vsim) and meeting on Zoom with our clinical group. The School of Nursing tells us these methods of clinicals teach us critical thinking, but nothing compares to the on-the-floor thinking we learn in the hospital or community setting, working with real people. We are part of a community right here, one that could benefit from our students’ presence on campus. 

In the past, USF has hosted COVID-19 and flu vaccination clinics on campus. 

However, they tend to be run through partnerships with hospitals such as Kaiser, which sometimes limit the amount of people allowed to get vaccines to those with specific types of insurance. Similarly, the staff and faculty are required to get tested using their own insurance. They are recommended to refer to the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s website to find the closest testing site, many of which also require certain insurance—the closest one that doesn’t require membership of a certain hospital’s insurance is Third Baptist Church on 1339 McAllister St.

However, if students both on and off-campus are exposed, they are then provided a COVID-19 test by the University to do on their own and are ordered to release the results of those tests to the University. The infrastructure is partly there with testing kits on campus ready to be used. In the past, the School of Nursing has sent out personal protective equipment (PPE) to its nursing students. This means that the University has had the means to pay for PPE to protect the students and other nurses that would be performing the COVID-19 tests on campus. 

There are also several companies within San Francisco and across the Bay Area that help run pop-up vaccination clinics. If the University was to partner with companies like Carbon Health, it would have the backbone that Kaiser had from their previous on-campus vaccination clinics. 

The idea is “Dons Helping Dons,” the new catchphrase the University has posted around campus in relation to on-campus COVID-19 policies. The testing clinic would provide students and staff with a quick and accessible way to get tested, as well as clinical opportunities for students who don’t have clinical placements yet. It would give Dons peace of mind in an ever-changing set of health regulations tied to the global pandemic, and would provide free and fair access to testing, regardless of the type of insurance people have.

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