Community college nursing programs prepare to help give COVID-19 vaccine


MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – South Carolina is allowing more healthcare workers to give the COVID-19 vaccine, as the state prepares for doses to become more widely available in future phases.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) warned Thursday that contact tracers will have to prioritize which coronavirus cases to investigate. DHEC also says it’s shifting from “containment” to “community mitigation” measures because the coronavirus is spreading at “staggering rates.”

DHEC is also expanding who can administer vaccines and students at Horry-Georgetown Technical College (HGTC) are getting ready.

“Many of our faculty, as soon as they returned to campus after their Christmas break, their first thought was how can we help,” said Lorraine Aldrich, who is HGTC’s nursing department chair.

HGTC says its nursing students will soon help give COVID-19 vaccines with Tidelands Health at locations in Little River and Georgetown County. A spokesperson says the school is finalizing agreements with other hospitals too.

Nursing students would have tasks like administering the vaccine, monitoring people 15 minutes after receiving shots and making sure patients get their second doses.

“The nursing students would be supported by the faculty,” said Aldrich. “We would follow the protocols of the facility, in terms of preparation of the medication, but we would then be able to participate in the actual administration.”

Florence-Darlington Technical College (FDTC) is also ready. Dr. Anne Ruth Grant, who’s the school’s dean of nursing, says she’s offered to assist the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and McLeod Health.

“As soon as they call us and let us know what they need for us to do, we will be ready,” said Dr. Grant.

DHEC and the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation is now allowing professionals with specific certifications, trained medical students and retired or inactive nurses to give pre-measured doses of vaccines. DHEC says this will allow more healthcare workers to administer shots when the state’s vaccine supply becomes larger.

Dr. Grant says her students can help in smaller communities across the Pee Dee.

“There are a lot of people dying and a lot of people diagnosed with COVID, so there is a big need,” Dr. Grant said.

Aldrich says students will also gain valuable experience in a historic health crisis.

“We may have patients or individuals who are anxious, they are uncomfortable, they don’t like to take needles, so this gives them a chance to figure out how best to support those people,” she said.

Anyone who now qualifies must enroll in the federal program before they can start giving the vaccine.

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