This past semester Samuel Merritt University (SMU) nursing students in the Accelerated Bachelors in Nursing (ABSN) program provided clients in two Walden House programs with tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccinations. Walden House is a non-profit, multi-site community program in San Francisco with roots dating back to the 60's. It is a residential and outpatient substance abuse and mental health program that also contracts with the state prison system to provide services to inmates and parolees.
The clinical nursing students from the SMU San Francisco Learning Center was concerned with a recent outbreak of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, a disease that is often fatal to infants and young children. The ABSN students wanted to protect the Walden House community, especially women with children, from this preventable disease.
Lucas Marchiniak, ABSN student, coordinated the vaccine administration with San Francisco County Health Department and Walden House staff. "I learned that there is a tremendous need for public health infrastructure in the community," he said. "Usually, you go to a healthcare provider and take for granted that you will receive the vaccines you need. I had no idea how much goes on behind the scenes to administer those shots."
Samuel Merritt University faculty supervisor, Kate Shade PhD, RN, Assistant Professor, is proud of the work Marchiniak and the other four nursing students did to organize the event. "They did a phenomenal job preparing for the vaccination day. They learned how much documentation is required, how to store vaccines, and how to screen for those persons who should not be vaccinated," explained Shade. "They also educated the clients about pertussis and the risks for adults with compromised health and young children who do not yet have full immunity to the disease. They did such a good job of preparing the clients that of the adults who needed to be immunized the vast majority elected to get the vaccine."
"I learned that building rapport with the clients is important. You cannot come to a community and expect that the service you want to offer will be necessarily utilized by the members of that community," said Katherine Greenman, ABSN student. "I realized that each person we see has particular needs that we as nurses need to attend to. For example, one client said, ‘don't tell me about it [the shot], just do it quickly and get it over with.' Another said she thought she would faint so I had to help her manage her anxiety before I could give her the shot."
Lauren Fiel and Andrea Haun, ABSN students, are committed to working after graduation as nurses in the community. "These sites need a community health nurse to coordinate this kind of program," Haun said.
Fiel believes students are a great resource in providing free healthcare services. "Our community health clinical rotation has been an opportunity to work with an underserved population. We have done everything from arranging on-site services, referring clients to outside services, and providing services ourselves. We also offer group health education and advise individuals about managing their chronic health conditions."
Allison Ohata added, "Working at the Walden House has been a great opportunity to give back to the community. As new nurses, the experience has helped us to understand where patients in the acute care setting are coming from in the community, what their healthcare needs are and their ability to access healthcare coverage. I know it will make me a more empathic, understanding, and knowledgeable nurse."