OP/ED: From the Perspective of a Nursing Student: The COVID vaccine

EDITOR’S NOTE: Proud mom moment here – the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in so many ways, and for our family with many in the vulnerable population and with chronic diseases, it’s been downright scary. And then there’s the fact that our daughter is a nursing student. Full of mixed feelings – relieved she’s “just a student” instead of already having her RN and being in the thick of caring for the victims of the virus as I have no doubt that’s what she would be doing if she could. I had asked her to write about her experiences, and especially after her cohort spent a day at the State Fairgrounds in Marion County giving the vaccine.
By Kalli Swanson
Being a nursing student in the middle of a pandemic is quite the oxymoron of a fact – I have the knowledge to do some things to help, but not necessarily enough to truly make an impact. Since the beginning of this dark tunnel, I have felt frustrated and guilty that I, as a future health care worker, was standing on the sidelines as so many fellow nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, etc. were facing the beast of COVID-19 while I sat on my hands, waiting for my time to maybe make a difference.

That time finally came on March 3rd. My nursing program was asked by Salem Health to volunteer our time to help administer COVID vaccines at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. We were told about the opportunity in late January, but we didn’t know the full extent of the opportunity until the week before. I was honored and elated to be a part of the light at the end of the dark, challenging tunnel that the pandemic had created, and my excitement rippled through me all the way up until we were standing in the building at the Fairgrounds. Walking into the building in Salem, was like viewing a priceless work of art, witnessing history. National Guard Members, EMT’s, providers, and nurses with eyes crinkled up as they smiled under their masks to the patient’s they were administering vaccines to, the bustle of people moving through the process of registering, waiting the required 15-30 minutes before leaving – the atmosphere was the most uplifting thing I had experienced since March of 2020. From 0900-1600, over 900 people flowed in and out of the building to wait their turn to be a part of ending the pandemic. They waited for the ability to do their part to protect themselves, their families, their fellow community members, and to protect complete strangers. I laughed, prayed, smiled, joked, and even did a few happy dances with patients that sat at my table. One patient I had even told me she was happier today than she was at her wedding day, and another told me she couldn’t help but be disappointed that she was sent to my table instead of the “hunky” EMT. By the end of the day, I figured I would be exhausted – lots of talking, sanitizing, and administering. But I was the opposite – I was buzzing with pride that I brought so much joy to so many people, and they were carrying that joy out into the world with them.

The other aspect of this most uplifting experience I’ve had since the pandemic, was when I was able to receive my two doses of the Moderna vaccine. I, like most people, was slightly apprehensive about getting the vaccine at first. I think I have the right to say that I’m intelligent, educated, and lucky enough to be able to do my own research before having an opinion on the vaccine. I steered clear of news articles, Facebook posts, and the like that spewed words that just didn’t sit right with me. I have personally believed in the science that Dr. Fauci (and his team) have provided from the get-go. Nursing school has 2000% instilled in me that we need to honor and trust science, especially when we aren’t entirely sure what is going on or what is going to happen. The fear that can grip us when the unknown of the situation is hard to stifle, I won’t deny that. But you know what we can find comfort in and make that fear disappear? The fact that the vaccine is able to protect us, but most important protect our families and the communities we live and work in.
Yeah, I won’t deny, the couple days after getting the vaccine doses are not fun. But it is a beautiful event that your body is going through – your body is learning how to fight COVID! Just by a shot! I find that so unbelievably amazing that I can’t help but be a little shocked and frustrated when people don’t want to experience that, just because “I don’t want to” or “I’ll let other people be the guinea pig”. We all have an opportunity here to be a part of history, to be a part of making a difference in the lives of those who have health conditions that prevent them from getting the vaccine (even when they badly want to), and most importantly – we have the opportunity to all be a part of the light at the end of the COVID tunnel. When your turn comes for the vaccine, step up, sign up and proudly announce your Fauci ouchie!
If you have any questions at all about the COVID-19 vaccine, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is kalliswanson@gmail.com and I would be honored to help answer any questions and hear any concerns you may have!