UMass Dartmouth nursing students help administer vaccinations

Mar 16, 2021

In a typical year, UMass Dartmouth nursing professor Paula Walsh would take her students to Haiti or Mississippi to get their required community health experience. 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the program has instead decided to keep things local. 

Since large-scale vaccination clinics began in February, the program has partnered with several sites all over the region to help with the commonwealth’s vaccination effort — including the Southcoast Health-run clinic at the old VF Outlet and the now-closed Dartmouth High site

Her students also helped administer the last of the Dartmouth Board of Health's second doses at a clinic at the Council on Aging on March 16.

“It’s a historic moment to be part of this pandemic,” Walsh said. “Such a great experience for these students.”

Walsh said that during the pandemic her department has helped with contact tracing efforts, along with testing protocols at the school — but nothing like the current partnership with the Dartmouth Board of Health.

“It’s been a real bi-directional relationship,” Walsh said. “We’ve been able to help fill a need for the town and provide an incredible learning experience for the students.” 

As the collaboration has gone on, Walsh said she’s “noticed a lot more confidence” in how her students operate at clinics. At first, she said her students were almost exclusively focused on the technical aspects of administering the shots.

Now, the students are interacting more with patients and helping to educate them on how the Pfizer vaccine works.

“It’s just an amazing transformation,” Walsh said.

Junior Julianne Monahan said she has also noticed her own progression since her first clinic in February, noting that she used to take more pauses while working with patients.

“It just comes natural to me now,” Monahan said.

Those who attended the COA clinic in town only had positive things to say about their second experience at the last municipal-run site.

Dartmouth resident Fran Branco noted that her shot was “very smooth” and that the students “did such a great job.” 

“Very friendly, very caring,” she said. “That’s exactly what we need.” 

Public Health Director Chris Michaud praised the students for their help with the town-run clinics, noting that they’ve “worked very well.” 

But he did lament that they’ll no longer be able to assist the Board of Health in this capacity after the state closed locally run clinics to prioritize distributing vaccines to state-controlled mass vaccination sites.

“It’s a shame — this is an experience that’s being taken away from them,” Michaud said.