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WKCTC nursing students ready to help with vaccine

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West Kentucky Community and Technical College nursing instructor Sarah Hamilton is shown administering the COVID vaccine to nursing and allied health students.

Nursing and allied health students and faculty at West Kentucky Community and Technical College are “armed and ready” to help administer COVID-19 vaccinations in the Purchase region.

Approximately 150 students and faculty in WKCTC’s nursing division are armed in the sense they have been immunized themselves, and trained on how to give vaccinations, as part of the college’s ongoing partnership with health care providers in the region.

What they don’t know is when they will be called into action, said Shari Gholson, WKCTC’s dean of nursing.

“We got trained over the Christmas break and into January, knowing that it (the vaccine distribution) is in flux, and the availability of the vaccine and the delivery of the vaccine is ever changing, not only day to day, but hour to hour,” she said.

“Our students are very excited. Not only are they so appreciative to receive the vaccine as they enter into the health care clinical arena, they want to pay it forward. And, what better way to be able to do that than provide their skills in immunizing our community?”

The nursing program has long been in partnership with the Purchase District Health Department, as well as Baptist Health Paducah and Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital, and is “looking forward to collaborating and assisting them in whatever way we can,” Gholson said.

“We do not know when the actual (vaccine) administration clinics will launch, but we are working with all those entities and are ready to jump into service whenever the need arises.”

Not only have WKCTC students completed the immunization training, Gholson said, but they are registered in the Kentucky Immunization Registry which documents that they have the education and training to administer the vaccine.

“Not only is it important for our community members to have information about the actual vaccine, but they also need to be reassured that those administering the vaccine are qualified and educated to do so.”

Gholson said the health of the nursing students is always a concern, particularly during this time of COVID.

“If they have any concerns, we encourage the to express their concern to us,” she said.

“And, if there is a certain risk within their family, we absolutely do everything we can to ensure the safety of our students. But, honestly, we’ve had no student come forward in declining this opportunity (to participate).”

Kent Koster, Purchase District Health Department director, said he reached out to Gholson several weeks ago “whenever we started talking about the vaccination process and probably needing some assistance if we had enough vaccines that we’d need additional resources to give it.”

“It’s kind of like being in the Reserves, you never know when you’re going to get called up. And, they’re willing to travel, to go throughout the 8-10 counties that are in their service area,” he said.

“They’ll be really beneficial to the smaller counties who are already reaching out to different people, looking to be prepared if they ever have a large quantity of vaccine that would require them to have additional vaccinators.”

Koster said he feels really bad “because we’ve had many conversations about the possibility of needing their assistance. At one time, we thought we probably had a great opportunity and then it kind of fell through.”

“I know they (students) are ready and we’re ready. The people are ready to show us their arms ... but we just don’t have vaccine to put in them.”