As the first group of Washington residents line up for COVID‑19 vaccines, some are getting those long-awaited inoculations from WSU College of Nursing faculty and students.

In recent weeks Coug Nurses have volunteered in the Spokane area at Providence hospitals and at Summit Cancer Centers, which is an approved vaccination provider in the region. College of Nursing staff also volunteer at Providence to check people in for appointments, and students in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences also are being prepped for vaccination roles.

Victoria Sattler, a teaching assistant professor at the College of Nursing, has been volunteering since the first day vaccines were administered at Providence Sacred Heart Hospital.

“I still work in the emergency department and have been working on the frontlines since this started,” Sattler said. “This allows me to fight against COVID‑19 in a different way.”

Senior nursing students volunteering at Summit Cancer Center before spring semester began were vaccinating about 150 people a day, said Cindy Brigham-Althoff, teaching assistant professor.

“I sent an email out to my clinical group and asked for them to come help out before the start of the semester and seven out of nine students jumped,” she said.

Senior nursing student Leanne Nixon said it was an easy decision for her; “We’re getting to be a part of history.”

Mary Koithan, dean of the WSU College of Nursing, said the vaccination effort is an opportunity for nursing students to have a real-world impact on public health and to bring much-needed help to working nurses.

A nursing professor talks with two students.
Teaching Assistant Professor Cindy Brigham-Althoff talks with WSU nursing students at Summit Cancer Centers in North Spokane recently. Brigham-Althoff’s students volunteered to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to healthcare workers from around the region. Photo by Sarah Schaub.

“It’s every nurse’s responsibility to contribute the way you can,” Koithan said. “Our healthcare system is overextended, nurses are stretched. Our students and faculty are able to help the nurses in the field get out the vaccines faster.”

Dr. Arvind Chaudhry, medical director of Summit Cancer Centers, said his group pursued designation as a vaccination center to help the community as well as Summit’s patients.

“We have the infrastructure to support the distribution and handling of the vaccine, and this is a community service for us,” Chaudhry said. He expects Summit to continue offering vaccinations as the state moves through each phase of its process.

Nixon, the nursing student, said she also was interested in helping with vaccinations as an example to her friends and family, some of whom are hesitant to get vaccinated.

Another student, Jordin Black, said “my parents have definitely rethought getting the vaccine” based on her involvement in the process.

Sattler said the vaccination sessions she’s been part of are the first time since the pandemic began that hospital workers have been uniformly happy: “They’re taking selfies, laughing, joking – we haven’t had that in a long time.”