Nursing students are mass vaccinating Atlanta

Georgia State’s nursing program partnered with the local Clarkston clinic to start the drive-through vaccination site. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Georgia State’s nursing program is providing nursing students with the opportunity to vaccinate Atlanta-area seniors against the coronavirus. The Georgia State nursing program began their drive-through vaccinations 4 1/2 weeks ago in Clarkston at Ethne Clinic and have now moved to the Clarkston First Baptist Church.

The nursing course coordinator for senior practicum and clinical associate professor for Georgia State, Teresa Bates, acquired the operation’s student volunteers. The students are an entire class of graduating seniors in the nursing program from the Downtown campus. 

Each day of the drive-through vaccination site, Michelle Nelson, Joan Crawford and Kristen Lingle, Georgia State registered nurse faculty, oversee seven senior nursing students per day, rotating between groups of seven students every day.

With COVID-19 infections rising and mass vaccination opportunities, these students are a part of something bigger than just clinical hours; they are a part of ground-breaking medical history. 

In one day, these Georgia State students are vaccinating an average of 150 senior citizens, direct caretakers and frontline workers. Since starting the drive-through operation, the students have administered over 700 vaccines. 

The Georgia State nursing program partnered with Ethne in its vaccination campaign. The Ethne Clinic, located on East Ponce de Leon Ave in Clarkston, is a non-profit medical clinic that provides affordable health services for those without health insurance. Ethne offers health services in adult and pediatric care, gynecology and specialty care.

The clinic offers free, no appointment COVID-19 testing. As of now, they are focusing their efforts on distributing the vaccine and will resume testing soon. 

Eligible persons can make an appointment for their vaccine through the Ethne Clinic website. The clinic is currently offering the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. 

These students are getting experience for their future careers as nurses and getting a head start on learning the ropes of a world affected by COVID-19, which is expected to affect life for years to come.

In Georgia, nursing students must have a minimum of 480 hours of hands-on, bed-side clinical work to transition to a Registered Nurse. With many hospitals and clinics limiting staff, getting clinical hours has been a hardship for many nursing students, including those at Georgia State. 

Ethne Clinic, alongside Georgia State, is allowing these students to continue their education and transition into the nursing field during a pandemic.  

The faculty assisting in the operation are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with Ethne Clinic and Georgia State to help administer the vaccine. 

“It is a very good service for the Atlanta community,” Michelle Nelson, a Georgia State registered nurse, said. “It feels incredible; it is a worthwhile endeavor. After I heard about the vaccine, I wanted to be involved and volunteer, and it was really hard to find somewhere to volunteer. It is such rewarding work.”

The community’s response has been appreciative of the hard work from these students and faculty members. The Georgia State nursing students and faculty have stood in a parking lot in the harsh February weather for weeks, administering vaccines and saving lives. 

“Every single car was highly appreciative, and everyone said thank you to us for standing out here and giving us the vaccine. It was 30-degree weather, and we were standing outside. All day from 9 [a.m.] to 5 p.m. People were extremely grateful for us,” Michelle Nelson said.

On Jan. 8, Georgia State announced that they would be one of the schools receiving the COVID-19 vaccine for distribution through the school Health Center. 

The university is following the state’s rollout plan, which is currently in Phase 1A+ for vaccine administration. In Phase 1A+, eligible recipients include the following:

  • Faculty, staff and students who are 65 and older 
  • First responders
  • Student Health Center staff 
  • Counseling Center staff 
  • COVID-19 testing surveillance personnel 
  • Laboratory staff who work with SARS-CoV-2 
  • Long-term care facility staff or residents 

As of March 8, the following are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Georgia State:

  • Educators and staff
  • Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers 
  • Parents of children with complex medical conditions 

With the development and upcoming release of the Johnson and Johnson one-shot vaccine, there is hope that more people can have access to the vaccine and the U.S. can obtain herd immunity. 

Georgia State will continue to roll out vaccines to eligible parties in compliance with the state’s distribution plan. 

Georgia State is still offering free testing sites for faculty, staff and students on all campuses Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For students in housing, the residence halls offer testing once a week. 

There are sites in Dahlberg Hall and 75 Piedmont for all staff, faculty, and students on the Atlanta campus. Georgia State Student Health Clinic staff administers the tests. They offer the saliva test with no appointment required, and free parking is available at M-Deck.