‘We all have a common goal:’ Health care students vaccinate fellow Bobcats against COVID-19 at on-campus clinic

Melina Khan, Associate News Editor

Nearly 50 Quinnipiac University health care students put their clinical education to use by administering COVID-19 vaccinations to over 500 students at the on-campus vaccine clinic last week. They said it’s a small way to give back to the community and improve the status of COVID-19 on campus.

“I think we all have a common goal, we all want to get back to some sort of normalcy,” said Talia Giardino, a senior nursing major. “I think to be able to relate to (students) on a personal level and kind of work together and acknowledge the state of the country that we’re living in – the world really – and just work together to be better for ourselves and for the community around us.”

Giardino volunteered at the Thursday, April 29 session of the clinic, where she said she vaccinated at least 20 students. Previously, Giardino administered vaccines to individuals over 65 in Hamden and North Haven through Quinnipiack Valley Health District.

Samantha Batavia (left) and Caroline Alexopoulos (right) volunteered at on-campus COVID-19 vaccination clinic. (Photo contributed by Caroline Alexopoulos)

“I loved it, it was awesome … I’ve done more vaccines at the clinics than I have in actual school,” Giardino said. “I just did it for more practice and obviously to help with the pandemic and get these vaccines in everyone’s arms who wants them.”

Nursing students are required to participate in a community clinical as part of their clinical rotation. This year, many students have been sent to rotations at multiple off-campus COVID-19 vaccination clinics. In the past, students have volunteered at on-campus flu vaccine clinics.

“When I was a freshman, I would go and get the flu vaccine and there was plenty of seniors giving them out and that was always something that I wanted to do,” said Caroline Alexopoulos, a senior nursing major. “Now it was my turn to actually give back to the school.”

Alexopoulos also volunteered at Thursday’s clinic, where she estimated she administered about 40 vaccines throughout the day. She previously volunteered to administer vaccinations at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford.

“At the Quinnipiac COVID vaccine clinic, it went by a lot faster just because I feel like a lot of their parents have already gotten (the vaccine)and they’ve told them about it and it’s been so long now that the vaccine has been out,” Alexopoulos said. “They are pretty educated on everything … so it went by a lot faster, and they just kind of wanted to get the vaccine and get out.”

As a soon-to-be graduate, Alexopoulos said she’s glad she can make a long-term impact on the community.

“I know for the students, getting the vaccine is really important because for the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, they want next year to be normal … next year (they are) hoping for it to be better,” Alexopoulos said. “So I definitely just wanted to be a part of that.”

Debra Fisher, the school of nursing’s assistant dean of student services, coordinated the nursing student volunteers.

“When we heard about this opportunity, we were very excited to jump on board,” Fisher said.

Junior and senior nursing students administered vaccines and monitored students during the 15-minute observation period. First-year and sophomore nursing students also volunteered at the clinic, directing students who were coming through the clinic. Fisher said there were 45 student volunteers from the School of Nursing between the two days of the clinic.

“Not only did our students administer the vaccine, but they offered emotional support to the students that came for the vaccine,” Fisher said. “They helped answer their questions, we had informational brochures to give to the students so they would have a better understanding of the vaccine and the vaccination process. So they also provided education, which is very important at this phase.”

Quinnipiac University hosted an on-campus COVID-19 vaccination clinic on April 29-30, and it will host a second clinic on May 21, and May 24. (Melina Khan)

Fisher said students getting vaccinated is an integral part of maintaining COVID-19 on campus for the fall semester.

“The significance is educating (students) as well on the importance of receiving the vaccine in order to be involved in this fight against the pandemic, so that coming back to the QU community in the fall, it will be a safer community for all,” Fisher said.

Four students in the physician assistant (PA) program also helped administer vaccines at the clinic. 

“It’s good for the students to get practice, but I think the idea of a student giving it to a student, it’s sort of helping out your peer, so I think it also sets a good example that these vaccines are safe and effective, because these individuals, they themselves have received it and they’re of the same age,” said Cindy Rossi, director of clinical education for physician assistant studies.

Jessica Bracamonte, a third-year graduate student in the PA program, was one of the students who helped administer vaccines on campus. She said she vaccinated about seven students during her three-hour shift.

“As a future health care provider, I love helping and educating people. The vaccine clinic was an excellent opportunity to do both,” Bracamonte said. 

Bracamonte added that she enjoyed interacting with students.

“We participated in small talk like, ‘What’s your major?’ and more meaningful conversation like who they were protecting by getting the vaccine,” Bracamonte said. “I remember being an undergraduate student and getting to talk to the graduate PA students and it made my goals seem a little closer and more realistic. Here, I was not much older than they were acting as a vaccinator and educator. I hope I was able to show these students that their hard work and dedication pay off.”