The early days of administering vaccinations and coordinating vaccinators were – at times – stressful and chaotic. Regardless, the groups of University of Missouri–St. Louis students and faculty members were still able to give about 400 vaccinations a day.
By the end of the semester, that number had risen to approximately 1,000 daily thanks to constantly adjusting and improving the process.
“It took a lot of planning,” said Shawne Manies, College of Nursing director of clinical operations and assistant teaching professor. “It was stressful, but it was also really good and positive. We made a lot of good changes by collaborating and partnering together.”
Manies felt a surge of gratitude in May for the college’s partners and students when she tallied up the school’s vaccination numbers to send to the Missouri State Board of Nursing and realized UMSL vaccinators had administrated about 25,000 shots.
The students had been at vaccine sites six days a week, covering more than 104 shifts and 832 positions – a huge coordination effort that had been headed up by Manies.
“It’s been a lot of positive experiences,” she said. “It’s also been very hectic, as well, but in a really good way, if that makes sense. I’m definitely happy for a little bit of a break.”
The college’s vaccine efforts started in November with Manies reaching out to various hospital systems and health care partners and letting them know UMSL was standing by to help.
“We’re here,” Manies said. “Part of what we do at UMSL is help our community, so let us know where you need us, and we’ll do our best to be there.”
In January, she kicked off the vaccination efforts by creating the roster for the semester. Manies looked at the various sites where students would be administering vaccines – BJC HealthCare Christian Hospital, SSM Health DePaul Hospital, the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health, the St. Charles County Department of Public Health, pop-up events sponsored by CHIPS, the VA St. Louis Health Care System and at UMSL – and the hours and days each were open.
Then she pulled up a list of the clinical groups already in place for the semester and got to work matching them, trying to keep it so that no group was administering vaccines too many times at the cost of their education.
Afterward, she sent the schedule to the rest of the nursing faculty to double check her work. Though Manies always organizes the clinical placements, this was a much more intense effort.
“This was significantly harder to do,” she said. “The first couple weeks at the beginning of the semester are a little hectic as it is because we’re supposed to be getting each student onboarded to a facility. It takes quite a bit of time. They have to do a lot of prep work. We have a lot of paperwork we have to fill out and get over to the hospital. The beginning was pretty tough, but it really helped that the people I worked with were so wonderful.”
One particularly important partner to the College of Nursing turned out to be Christian Hospital, where the students administered vaccinations five days a week.
A key part of the relationship was working together to fine-tune the vaccination process. Initially, Christian Hospital had been having each student do every step of the vaccination process from giving the shot to updating each patient’s profile in the computer system.
After four weeks of giving vaccinations, the process hadn’t gotten any faster, so Manies and others suggested the students start specializing.
“By giving each person a task, it made it better,” she said. “The student nurses were able to give a shot every few minutes, instead of having one client sitting there for up to 10 minutes trying to do every single piece of the process, or nearly every single process.”
Though things calmed down to a certain extent once the schedule was made and set, it never got quiet.
“We couldn’t cancel – I think there was only one time because of weather that we had to cancel,” Manies said. “Other than that, if an instructor got sick, we would have another instructor and group already set as the backup to go in their place. That only had to happen a few times, but people do get sick. There were some times that I jumped in and helped as the backup, and that worked out fine.”
The students learned more than just how to administer vaccines – they also learned preparation, education, documentation and more.
She also encouraged students who were placed less often in the vaccine clinics to volunteer during their spare time, something Manies did as well. It felt good to do something to fight the ongoing pandemic and often provided moments of light within a tough year.
“Patients are almost at their best – they weren’t sick – when they came in,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of very emotional happenings with people, and they would be so excited to be there getting their injections. They hadn’t seen family for over a year; they wanted to give their grandkids a hug; they wanted to be able to go out again. This was the first step in helping them succeed in that. There were quite a few happy tears.”
Though the year has wrapped up and she’s no longer coordinating vaccinations, Manies is still at work and thinking about next steps. She’s collaborating with College of Nursing Associate Dean of Research Kim Werner to create a qualitative study examining the experiences of the faculty, staff and students working in the pandemic.
She’s also started to mull about what nursing can do next year to help combat vaccine hesitancy through outreach.
“I think that this pandemic is helping us make some much needed positive changes in health care and in education and nursing education,” Manies said. “I don’t know what all those changes will be yet, but I do think it’s the beginning of some excellent work ahead.”