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Nursing students gain 'once in a lifetime' experience volunteering at Brazos Center Vaccination Hub

Posted at 6:02 PM, Mar 23, 2021

BRYAN, TEXAS — We've talked about many front-line workers, including hospital staff, doctors, and veteran nurses, all going above and beyond during the pandemic, but what about those still receiving instruction and gaining experience?

Local collegiate nursing students are assisting during a time that even they never thought they would be in during their studies.

Normally three days a week, fourteen nursing students from Blinn College and Texas A&M's nursing programs can be seen receiving instruction bright and early at the Brazos Center here in Bryan. All in the hopes of making a dent in vaccinating Brazos County residents.

Partnering with local nursing schools affords student nurses real-life practice within their own community. The experience is completely voluntary.

"With the pandemic.. being a nursing student... You kind of feel a little helpless, because you are not quite to the point where you can be helping people, so whenever we heard of the opportunity that we were going to get to do this, it really made a lot of us feel useful at this time," Shanna Honkomp, a nursing student at Blinn College School of Nursing said Tuesday morning, ready for her shift at the Brazos Hub.

Meet Shanna, she's graduating in May and is one of the 180 volunteers needed, daily, to keep the Brazos County vaccination hub going and going. She hopes the impact from herself, her fellow classmates, and the staff goes far beyond the literal vaccine shot itself.

" service, and that feeling that we have really been able to help out during these crazy, crazy, times and make people feel safe and secure about the vaccine that they are getting," Honkomp added.

Director of the Associate Degree Nursing at Blinn College, Karla Ross, says, seeing students gain this once-in-a-lifetime experience, is something special.

"This is definitely the largest scale... community effort... not even community, but a global pandemic.. so definitely this is something that is a once in a lifetime... hopefully.. that they are all participating in," Ross said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to be part of the fight against a pandemic, that has been not only part of their education but also is part of their community service."

As far as giving out vaccinations, a medical license is required, or at the least, requires one to be supervised by someone with a medical license.

Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of College Station and Incident Commander at the vaccination hub in Bryan, Tradd Mills, overlooks all operations, big and small, and says, seeing young students come through the hub doors is very impressive.

"It's very humbling.. and I am honored to be a part of it... and I know they are honored to be a part of it. It's fun to me because I get to see the excitement from the moment they walk in in the morning, to the time they leave in the afternoon," Mills said.

AJ Renold with American Red Cross, who manages all of the volunteers at the hub, says, she believes students from both programs will have donated over 300 hours a week, nearing 4,000 collective hours towards Brazos County vaccination efforts.

"They are getting patient interaction, hearing from patients, some of them will see people walk in to get their vaccine almost in tears, so that experience of bedside manner and talking to people is very much a part of healthcare you cannot teach unless you are interacting with the patients themselves, so this is a great experience," AJ Renold, Executive Director of the Heart of Texas Chapter with American Red Cross said.

Renold also says, being a part of a large collaborative effort is a huge benefit to the students' experience.

"They are also working with volunteers who are right by their side and the military, so they are having to navigate what we all as professionals navigate, as multiple agencies and organizations and diverse people exists in the real-time workforce," Renold added.

Ross hopes this experience will allow students to become more compassionate nurses and to see the value in giving back.