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A shot in the arm: Nursing students aid in the fight against COVID-19

June 3, 2021

Dr. Dale VaccinationClarion University’s Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in nursing students have been part of the fight to stop the spread of the COVID-19 by volunteering to vaccinate thousands of people in western and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Nursing students have been using the skills they've acquired in their CU classes by administering the vaccine at the Butler Health System-Clarion, UPMC-Northwest, Penn Highlands-Dubois, UPMC Somerset and UPMC Somerset Hospital, Somerset High School, Meyersdale High School and at two vaccination clinics at the Somerset site with Mainline Pharmacy.

"The students have been so excited to take part in this extraordinary worldwide effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19. We teach health promotion and disease prevention in our programs, but this has been an opportunity of a lifetime for our students to actually participate in these mass vaccination clinics," said Dr. Deb Kelly, nursing department chair.

Students were more than willing put on their scrubs and help.

"I have administered vaccines at Clarion University Somerset Campus, UPMC Somerset Hospital, and Somerset Area High School," said Clarion University-Somerset ASN student Leah Wahl. "I feel very honored to be a part of the vaccination movement. I feel confident in the skills I have learned at Clarion. With that being said, I get to apply my skills while representing my school and serve my community by vaccinating."

Vaccination picClarion Hospital chief nursing officer Leslie Walters ('91, '92, '11G) first approached Clarion University with the idea of using nursing students to help administer vaccines with the Butler Health System, of which Clarion Hospital is a part. Walters also is an alumna of Clarion University's nursing program.

The idea was born out of necessity and the experiences Walters has had with Clarion University nursing students.

"We have always had such great experiences with the nursing students in their clinical rotations in our hospital. They always provide quality nursing care to our patients," Walters said. "So when we wanted to vaccinate our community as quickly as possible – we needed resources from our community and I reached out to Dr. Kelly to offer clinical experiences for the students at the vaccine clinic."

Kelly worked with the CU instructors to determine that senior-level students were able to administer vaccines alongside the Butler Health System, Clarion Hospital nurses.

"My experience with Clarion University gave me confidence in their abilities to help us with this endeavor. As a Clarion graduate (ASN-91, BSN-92, MSN-2011) I know the strength and quality of the nursing program. I also have worked with, know many of the faculty, and have witnessed their excellent clinical knowledge and expectations of their students. Many of the nursing staff at Butler Health System, Clarion Hospital are proud graduates of Clarion University's Nursing Program."


Vaccination pic 2The Pennsylvania Department of Health's COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard reports that in Clarion County nearly 11,000 people have been vaccinated and more than 2,000 have been partially vaccinated.

In Venango County, nearly 14,000 people have been fully vaccinated and more than 3,000 have been partially vaccinated.

In Forest County, nearly 4,000 people have been fully vaccinated and nearly 350 have received partial vaccinations. In Somerset County, more than 21,000 people have been fully vaccinated, while more than 5,000 people have been partially vaccinated.

Also, in Clearfield County, more than 24,000 people are fully vaccinated, while nearly 5,000 people are partially vaccinated.In Pennsylvania, there are more than 3.8 million people have been fully vaccinated out of 12.8 million people living in Pennsylvania.


In addition to nursing students, other qualified students -- including those enrolled in Clarion's pre-professional health programs -- have joined the fight. According to Dr. Craig Scott, who manages Clarion's pre-professional health programs, a sign-up sheet was placed in Ralston Hall where pre-professional health students could volunteer.

Students helped with registration to assist at vaccination clinics. Students volunteered their time and helped with registration, scheduled follow-up appointments, monitored vaccinated individuals for up to 30 minutes after vaccinations in case of reactions, and cleaned areas for safety.

Vaccination pic 3"Additionally, we heard from the junior nursing and biology students who also wanted to help," Walters said. "These students assisted patients moving through the clinic as well as ensuring infection control measures were taken and chairs and/or equipment were cleaned allowing us to increase the number of people being vaccinated each day."
Scott said he's not surprised Clarion University students stepped up.

"I am very proud and not at all surprised that Clarion students volunteered their time to support and protect the local community. Our nursing and pre-professional students (i.e. pre-med) are dedicating their lives to care for and treat the public. So this opportunity to help support the distribution the vaccine to fight COVID 19 is demonstrating that commitment," Scott said.

Clarion University offers Associate of Science in Nursing at Venango and Somerset campuses as well as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, an RN to BSN program, a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner degrees. The ASN at the Venango Campus, BSN and the MSN programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Clarion and Edinboro Universities is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

In Clarion's pre-professional health programs, students choose paths such as chiropractic, dentistry, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant, podiatry and veterinary medicine.

Last Updated 6/3/21