UW-Eau Claire nursing students offered COVID-19 vaccine

Nursing students spend their time in college training to be essential workers one day, but while in school, they didn’t think they would be put to the test so soon.

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Courtesy of Shane Opatz.

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Courtesy of Shane Opatz.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire nursing students are among some of the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends health care workers to be part of the first group of people to be vaccinated for COVID-19. This happens to include many students in the college of nursing at UW-Eau Claire. 

“I got my vaccine on Feb. 3,” said nursing student Sydney Schwartz. “I am very lucky to be vaccinated this early on.” 

Nursing students who have clinical, which is when they go to a hospital to work with real patients, were offered vaccines said Linda Young, Dean of UW-Eau Claire College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Young said this is because they fall under the 1A category of the prioritization schedule from the CDC. 

The COVID-19 vaccination is offered to some nursing students, but Young said it is not yet required. 

“We are strongly encouraging our students to get vaccinated,”  Young said. “Both vaccines are still under emergency approval, so we can not require students to have one. Once they have been permanently approved by the FDA, then we can require them and will.”

While the COVID-19 vaccination is not required for these nurses in training, many are taking advantage of the opportunity, including nursing student Halli Mcauley. 

“I ended up getting mine through work because we were offered that before we got back to school,” said Mcauley. 

“I work in a long-term care facility, so we were the first wave,” she said. “Once we got back to school was when the university announced nursing students could get one.”

Other nursing students have not yet gotten their vaccine but plan to in the near future, nursing student Lauryn Hahn said. 

“I have yet to receive my vaccination but am waiting to hear back from the school on further instructions.”

Vanessa Tettamanzi said she also hasn’t gotten her COVID-19 vaccination yet because UW-Eau Claire requires nursing students to renew their Tuberculosis test each year. She said the CDC does not recommend getting tested for TB while also in the process of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine because the relationship between the two hasn’t been thoroughly studied yet.

“I plan to get my (COVID-19) vaccine in four to six weeks to ensure they will have no interactions with each other,” said Tettamanzi. 

The challenges of learning in a pandemic

It’s been a little over a year since COVID-19 hit the United States. 

The virus has changed many people’s life, including college students. UW-Eau Claire switched to virtual learning during the spring semester of 2020. 

Many classes are still virtual, including those of nursing students. 

“It has not been fun,” said Schwartz, the nursing student among the first to get the vaccine. 

Schwartz’s classes are still 100% virtual, she said. 

“Nursing is just a hard major to learn virtually. We are not getting nearly as much clinical experience as nursing students have in the past.” 

Nursing student Vanessa Tettamanzi  in her scrubs. Submitted 2021

Hahn said it has been tough for her professors to fit all of their learning material into a class period and then when internet issues arise, it is even tougher. 

“It isn’t ideal for most students and professors, but I think it’s important that we all stay positive and do the best we can with the situation we are in,” Hahn said. 

That’s what faculty and staff are doing, other students said. 

“The professors and clinical instructors have been supportive during this pandemic,” Tettamanzi said. 

Even though nursing students have had to adjust to virtual classes, Tettamanzi said it hasn’t stopped her from feeling ready to be a nurse one day.

“I try to remind myself that I know more than I think I do and that nursing is a lifelong learning career,” Tettamanzi said. 

Dean Young agreed. 

“They are going to be extremely well prepared,” Young said. “They will have lived through and helped out with a pandemic. “There’s no other group of students, hopefully, in the next 100 years that will have had that opportunity.”