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#VaxxFacts: UWC nursing students trained as vaccinators to bolster Western Cape’s fight against Covid-19

Published Sep 18, 2021


By Anél Lewis

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CAPE TOWN: The University of the Western Cape (UWC) is boosting the province’s Covid-19 vaccination roll-out drive by means of a qualified cohort of final-year nursing students acting as vaccinators and by opening a vaccination centre on its main campus for its staff, students, alumni and family members.

UWC vaccination site Co-ordinator Prof Firdouza Waggie explained that UWC was a socially responsive institution, attuned to the needs of the communities, and therefore responded positively to the call from the Western Cape Department of Health for higher education institutions to play a role in the province’s vaccination roll-out.

After extensive engagement with the department’s Northern and Tygerberg substructure, the UWC vaccination centre opened its doors on June 8. Four vaccinators were recruited and they are supported by the UWC nursing students at the UWC vaccination centre.

In addition, 20 UWC postgraduate students were trained to carry out administrative duties. The centre comprises 42 staff members that includes, 1 site co-ordinator, 1 operations manager, 5 vaccinators, 20 administrators who work in two shifts, 7 security staff and 8 hygiene controllers.

Weekly communication is sent out to the UWC community on Covid-19 and vaccination information. To date 5 859 vaccinations have been administered at the UWC Vaccination centre .

This was the first nursing student-vaccinator collaboration to be rolled out in the province, said Elrien Joubert of the Western Cape Department of Health. “The collaboration was quite seamless, as UWC was sensitive to our requirements and needs,” said Joubert. The department also has an established relationship with UWC’s School of Nursing.

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The 267 participating nursing students have been split into two groups, and the first cohort of 134 vaccinators started on June 17, said Jeffrey Hoffman, portfolio manager of the fourth-year nursing students.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the university and the UWC School of Nursing to be involved. We strive to provide relevant training that will allow our students to contribute meaningfully, especially in preparation for their completion as professional registered nurses.”

The initial work took place during the students’ mid-year break as part of their clinical placement.

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Professor Jennifer Chipps, director of UWC’s School of Nursing, explained that the students completed their vaccination competency training already in their third year. With just months to go before their community service placement as professional registered nurses, these students were well-prepared to bolster the health sector’s efforts to vaccinate as many communities as possible.

“The students are doing the same training as other registered nurses involved in the vaccination drive,” added Professor Maggie Williams, division head of the School of Nursing’s clinical and community outreach programmes.

They work full-time at vaccination sites in the Cape Winelands (Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington), as well as Khayelitsha East and Northern Tygerberg in the Cape Metro.

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“The longer placement is to ensure that students are orientated with the requirements of the task. Also, the additional support to the staff at these sites during the third wave will be invaluable,” noted Joubert.

Training was done online via the university’s zero-rated IKamva learning site, said Prof Williams. The content was aligned with the national Department of Health vaccine training and included a basic overview of Covid-19, an understanding of the various available vaccines, and information of the “nurse as observer” for those students who would be monitoring patients for side effects immediately after vaccination, explained Joubert.

Prof Williams emphasised that participation in the vaccinator collaboration was voluntary.

“All of the students taking part have consented to being vaccinators.”

Fourth-year student Sibongile Fumhe said: “Many people are not comfortable about the Covid-19 vaccine. Seeing others receiving the vaccine will hopefully motivate more people to do the same.”