Student nurses are stepping up to give Australians Covid-19 vaccines

A Covid-19 vaccine being administered. File photo.

By TILEAH DOBSON

It’s been over two months since Sydney went into lockdown after an outbreak of the deadly Delta variant of Covid-19 in mid-June. Eighteen months since the first recorded case of Covid-19 in NSW, the health sector is exhausted.

Despite its late start in February, the vaccine rollout in NSW has continued to meet strides, with over 21 million doses given out in the state. Operation Covid Shield, the task force in charge of administrating the vaccine, has set the target for 80 per cent of the population to be vaccinated by December.

This target is only possible if the health system has enough staff to administer the vaccine. Despite retired doctors, nurses and pharmacists returning to the fight, it’s still not enough.

Now, university students studying in medical fields are stepping up to help out.

Janet* is a third-year student nurse at Western Sydney University. She is one of many students who chose to assist the overworked health system and joined frontline workers to give Australians their vaccine shots.

“I administered the Pfizer vaccine. It was a very fast-paced process, and the lines were long. Sometimes I would marshal the lines to ensure that people were social distancing. I would also do check-in and check out to have a break from administering the vaccine,” she said.

An unprecedented opportunity for students, the criteria for participating was second year and above students who missed out on their placement due to restrictions and had at least one dose of the vaccine.

The students were also looked after by experienced nurses, who ensured the safety of both patients and students.

“There would be an RN walking around to check if everyone is okay, but really you are on your own giving the vaccine to the patients,” she said.

Despite the long hours and fast-paced nature of the placement, Janet enjoyed the experience and hopes opportunities such as these are a common occurrence for future students.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me as a student nurse to learn how to give the vaccine to the public. It was very empowering to educate patients about the vaccine so that they feel confident and know how to take care of themselves after.

“I would do it again but bear in mind that students do not get paid to give vaccines during the placement and are risking themselves being at the frontline of the public.”

As of 6 September, 2021, NSW is leading the nation, with 7,670,713 doses administered; 74.8 per cent of eligible people aged 16 and over have received the first dose and 41.8 per cent have had the second dose. Victoria is following close behind with 5,408,799 doses administered.

Image: Australian Government Department of Health.

“The government must have saved a lot of money from using students to vaccinate the public. Overall, it did help most of the population to get vaccinated on time,” Janet said.

For more information on the vaccine rollout in NSW, including how to make bookings, visit https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/infectious/covid-19/vaccine/Pages/default.aspx.

* Janet is a pseudonym.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.