Season 4 - Episode 410
Baylor nursing students are serving on the front lines of COVID-19 vaccination efforts throughout Waco and Dallas/Fort Worth. In this Baylor Connections, Dr. Lyn Prater, clinical professor at Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing, takes listeners inside the school’s participation in vaccine distribution locations, with students administering the vaccine to thousands of their Texas neighbors.
Derek Smith:Hello and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week we go in-depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more, discussing important topics in higher education, research and student life. I'm Derek Smith and our guest today is Dr. Lyn Prater. Dr. Prater serves as clinical professor of nursing at Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing. Dr. Prater has served on the nursing school's faculty for over 30 years. Her research has been published in a variety of journals. Beyond the Louise Herrington School of Nursing campus in Dallas, Dr. Prater has comprehensive experience in nursing in a number of Texas hospitals and health institutions. Many people may have seen in the news recently that Baylor nursing students were helping deliver the vaccination efforts in Waco. Dr. Prater coordinates those efforts for vaccine delivery in Waco with her students. Part of a broader outreach by the School of Nursing, delivering the vaccine at a variety of healthcare institutions in North Texas and Waco as well. I know it's a very busy time for you and your colleagues. We appreciate very much you taking the time to join us. Lyn Prater, thanks so much for coming on Baylor Connections today.
Lyn Prater:Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate that, Derek.
Derek Smith:Well, it's good to visit with you, and I know we're talking here .... I'm in Waco and you're in Dallas, but you've been spending quite a bit of time in Waco, you and your students lately. Before we dive into the vaccination efforts, I'm just curious. As a medical practitioner, as a teacher ... All these things that may have been hypotheticals a year-and-a-half ago, at this time, are very real now. What has the ebb and flow of this last year, particularly as we've headed into 2021, been like for you and your students?
Lyn Prater:Well, we've had a very interesting year. About last year at this time was when we started our efforts for lockdown and an extended spring break for students, so that faculty could have a week to move all of their courses to an online format. That was sort of our first push during this COVID pandemic that affected faculty and students. We were then delivering all of our courses online, even our clinical courses. We were not allowed to go to the hospital, so we developed modules, simulation modules, virtual healthcare experiences for our students. As the fall semester rolled around, we were able to be back in the seat, but in a reduced fashion, so to speak. And then, when we finally were able to get our vaccines delivered, we've been able to begin to help with the pandemic vaccination effort.
Derek Smith:When did you find out Dr. Prater, as it became clear, whenever that was ... That, okay, the vaccines are coming. They're going to be here and the efforts are going to begin. How does that impact you and your students? How do you mobilize or prepare for that?
Lyn Prater:That's a good question. We were first approached for our help with the vaccination clinics in Waco by Dr. Sharon Stern, who is the medical director of the health services at Baylor University. And she contacted us here at the nursing school to see if we could provide the backbone to help deliver these vaccines. Now, I've worked with Dr. Stern on the IRB committee. That was a really fun connection, that I already knew her and I had worked with her. And so, I was delighted to be able to say, "Yes, we think we can make this happen." And so, I spoke with our administration and we decided that it would be best to deliver these vaccines through our Population Health Nursing clinical course. This is a three-hour nursing course where students are out in the community, learning about population health and patient needs. And so, what a great connection this is, a great place in our curriculum, to mobilize our faculty and students to come to Waco to deliver these vaccines within this course.
Derek Smith:What level students are in that course?
Lyn Prater:These are level four students. These are graduating seniors. It's one of their last two clinical courses they take as a senior two student. It's a three-hour clinical course. It's a lot of clinical hours. And so, we decided that this would be the best course for delivering these vaccines.
Derek Smith:We are visiting with Dr. Lynn Prater from Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing. Dr. Prater, your students administered the Moderna vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine, here in Waco at McLane stadium, the Waco Convention Center, and plan to assist at more vaccination sites. And certainly, you're doing that in DFW and elsewhere. I want to ask about that experience. But before we really dive into that, let's talk a little bit about the vaccine, because most people hear terms like brand names like Moderna and Pfizer. We hear people maybe saying different things about the vaccines. And people are getting information from all different sources, but could you give us a little bit of a COVID-19 vaccination 101 here from your standpoint? Just to help us kind of wrap our arms around that a little bit more.
Lyn Prater:Sure. The Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine, when we talk about those names, those are just the names of the companies that have developed the vaccine. We have ... The two most common that we're seeing right now, and that we're at least utilizing in the Dallas Fort Worth area and in Waco, are Moderna and Pfizer. We're going to specifically talk about Moderna right now. That's the company name that developed the vaccine, but they're both very similar. They are what we call messenger RNA vaccines. It's the same type of vaccine, as far as how they work in the body, as the flu vaccine, the things that we're talking about with Zika ... Those kinds of diseases that we have developed for combating these diseases. The messenger RNA vaccine really teaches the cells how to make a harmless protein that's unique to that virus. The same thing happened with the flu vaccine. This harmless protein then triggers an immune response to produce antibodies that protect against the SARS, COVID-19 virus. After ourselves make those copies of the protein, they then destroy the mRNA from the vaccine. It's not going to change anybody's DNA, because this vaccine then just ... The protein just goes away, once it does the effective work within our bodies. That's one of the things people are concerned about, "Is it going to rearrange my DNA?" No, it will not do that. It never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where the DNA or genetic material is kept. There's not any way that it will do that.
Derek Smith:Well, you talk about that sometimes there are misconceptions that people have. Are there any others from your standpoint that are prevalent out there? What's that like for you and your students just trying to work past that in some cases?
Lyn Prater:Exactly. Well, we do know that some people cannot take this vaccination, because they might be allergic to some of the contents. That's one of the side effects, or one of the contra-indications I would say, for not taking the vaccine. If they have any allergies to the contents of the vaccine. But those will be spoken with the patient. When they come to the clinic for their vaccination, they must sign a consent form. And the students would go over individually with the patient about any allergies they have to make sure that that's not going to happen. We also know that there are some side effects patients have had with the vaccine. We want to make sure that patients know that they may have a headache, they may have a fever, but that's just the body's reaction to that foreign information that the patient has received. That's a normal response.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Lynn Prater. Dr. Prater, you have at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing, partnerships with medical institutions all throughout Texas, not just Waco and Dallas. You mentioned a little bit how you began to talk to people here at Baylor to begin administering the vaccines. What role does the many partnerships that Louise Herrington School of Nursing has open the door for this kind of hands-on opportunity, really, to mobilize your students in the midst of a public health crisis?
Lyn Prater:Right. It's just been a wonderful coming together of these institutions who are all trying to give care to people. And this is just a great combination of these partnerships with Baylor University, who has the resources to help us pay for our bus. I'll just give this example. When we decided that this was something that we wanted to pursue working ... Our faculty and students coming to Waco to help with the McLennan County Public Health Department deliver these vaccines. It really is a partnership between Baylor University, who provides resources for us to come down ... They are helping us with chartering the bus. Then, our faculty and students are using our clinical time to come down. We leave every morning at 6:15. Well, we gather in the morning at 6:15, and we depart on the bus at 6:30 in the morning. And we arrive in Waco. Sometimes we are at the McLane Stadium, and sometimes we're at the Waco Convention Center. It depends on the weather. Ms. Stephanie Alfie, who is the disaster relief person in charge of McLennan County Public Health Service, lets me know every week where we're going to be.
Lyn Prater:But this partnership with McLennan County Public Health, Baylor University, and the Louise Herrington School of Nursing is critical to make all of those pieces fall into place. The public health department has equipment and supplies, and they have their nurses that draw up the vaccine and sort of have the whole setup. And then, we come in and we work the stations to give the injections to the patients, to make sure the paperwork is filled out correctly, to make sure we do the pre-vaccination teaching, which is what nurses do. And then, we also do the monitoring of the families or the patients after they receive the vaccine. Everyone must be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes. When we have McLane Stadium, we have a place in the parking lot where the families drive their car after they receive the vaccine. And they are sitting then in the parking lot with our students monitoring for any side effects.
Derek Smith:Dr. Prater, you talk about ... You paint the picture there. You're at McLane Stadium, the convention center. You don't just come in, get the shot, and drive away. This is a massive effort. What does it take to prepare for something like that? I want to ask you about the training specifically from the medical side, but we'll start with the logistical side here. You're talking about the kind of thing ... You talk about sporting event and convention facilities are needed to make this happen?
Lyn Prater:Exactly. When we go to ... We were at McLane stadium last week, we vaccinated 1,700 people.
Lyn Prater:If you can think about it, they had ... Because it's at the stadium in the parking lot. Baylor University had set up all these tents, so that the vaccinators could be under the tent, with the tables and all the equipment which was all set up. The equipment was brought in by the Public Health Department. And then, the people would drive through. We had five drive-in stations. They would stop at the beginning, and make sure that they had been registered and were on the list. Then, the family would drive through to one of the stations. And we had, like I said, five stations. It's four students in each station where they would be making sure the paperwork was correct, give the pre-teaching, give the vaccination, and then send them around to the monitoring parking lot area. It is a huge operation. Baylor University had little golf carts with water and snacks that they would bring around to each of our stations. The Health Department provided lunch for us. We took breaks and had our lunch. They provided snacks throughout the day. But it's a huge operation, as you can imagine, to mobilize. We had 24 students, two faculty, plus the Public Health Department nurses. And then, all of the Baylor University operations folks from the stadium who were there overseeing, making sure things were clean, and that we had the supplies, the outside support supplies that we needed.
Derek Smith:You said 1,700 people last Thursday. And how many hours is that?
Lyn Prater:Yeah, we're at ... The clinic opens at 9:00, and last week it closed at 5:30.
Derek Smith:You're talking about that many people in, basically, a regular work day?
Lyn Prater:It's a regular work day.
Lyn Prater:But because we leave from Dallas, we leave at 6:30 and we don't get home till 7:30.
Lyn Prater:It's a very long day for our faculty and students. But thank goodness we're on a bus, so we don't have to take ourselves down there. We don't have to drive.
Derek Smith:That's nice.
Lyn Prater:Yes, it's very nice.
Derek Smith:And your campus is right in the heart of Dallas there, so you deal with traffic and all that.
Lyn Prater:We do.
Derek Smith:So, it's nice for your students to have that. Absolutely.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Lynn Prater, clinical professor of nursing at Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing. And Dr. Prater, we talked about the logistics. What about the training to just simply apply it? What goes into preparing your students to administer the vaccine?
Lyn Prater:Well, thank you for asking that. Because, like I said earlier, it really takes many people to get something like this mobilized. When we were invited to join this effort, one of the first things we did ... Or what I did, was I reached out to our simulation team. At the nursing school, we have a whole building that's devoted to simulation. I reached out to that team to ask if they could help develop a module that we could post on our Canvas site for all the students who would be participating in these vaccination clinics. Whether they were in the beginning first semester students, up to our level four students who go to Waco. It's on a general Canvas course, which we require all of our students to complete that module as a part of the training for doing these clinics. There's an information sheet about COVID-19. There's an information sheet about the Moderna vaccination. There's a reminder or an information sheet about giving injections in the deltoid muscle, in the arm muscle, which is where we give these vaccinations. They're intramuscular. We have an information sheet about what to teach the patients. These are all from the CDC, but our sim team developed this whole module that was a nice flow that we could then post. We require all of our students ... It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to finish that module. And then, they do that on their own, they did this past time. But now that we've started a new class with this group, we've done this as part of our orientation to the course. So, the faculty then is able to speak in front of the class and they do the module together.
Derek Smith:That's great. That's the training. What about, at the end of the day, helping students process this? What do you hear from the students who are involved in the efforts? How do you help them, as they think about becoming leaders in the field themselves, so they just think through this and process it all?
Lyn Prater:Exactly. We do have a process of debriefing after every clinic. We usually do that on the bus ride home, where we ask the students a set of questions. How do you think things went? What do you think we should do differently next time? Or what are some of the takeaways that you had from the clinic today? We do ... We call that reflective practice, which is something that we do as nurses, and that we do after all of our clinical days. Some people call it post-conference, some people call it debriefing for meaningful learning. Or some people call it reflective practice. But it's all the same thing, which is what you said, we ask the students to think about what happened and to reflect on what they learned. I'll tell you, the students love going to these clinics, even though it's a very long day. Like I said, they're there at the school at 6:00 in the morning and they don't get back till 7:30 that night. But they feel like ... The things that I've heard from the students, they say, "I feel like I'm a nurse." I feel like I'm helping solve a bigger problem than just one day at the hospital with a patient. I feel like I'm able to be a part of the solution to this COVID-19 pandemic that we're experiencing. I've just heard wonderful, positive responses to the students.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Lynn Prater. And you talk about the students saying, "I feel like a nurse when I'm out there." What does it mean to you? When you go into nursing, you're there to help people, to solve problems. Obviously, this is one of the biggest events of our lives. And certainly for these students, when you think of the ages they are, it is the big news story. The big event of their life. What's it mean to you to see them play a role in that and grow in this?
Lyn Prater:Oh, it's wonderful. I mean, it's ... We come into teaching, because we love our profession. I've been a nurse for a very long time, and I love nursing today just as much as I did when I graduated back in 1974. But to be able to have our students be a part of this huge effort, like you said, something we've never experienced, something I've never experienced in my long nursing career. I tell our students, you're going to be able to tell this story to your grandchildren. Not very many people are going to have this great opportunity to not only help people in the hospital, because our students have been in the hospital taking care ... They don't actually take care of COVID positive patients, if we know that. But we have many patients that are in the hospital that our students are taking care of, that may be positive that we just don't know. They've been around that, we've all been fitted for PPE. So, this is ... Being able to have the students work on the other side of the fence, of being on the prevention side, which is ... Again, a lot of what we do in nursing is teaching for prevention, teaching for health promotion. And so, this is health prevention, health promotion at its best. And I'm just delighted that we have been able to have our students participate in these clinics, both in Waco and in the Dallas Fort Worth area.
Derek Smith:Well, that's great. I know the need will continue, and you guys will be ready to mobilize. Heard a lot of positive responses. Saw some positive responses on social media from people who participated at McLane Stadium, and just talked about the professionalism of the students and everyone involved. It's exciting to see, and I know that makes you and your colleagues proud there at the school.
Lyn Prater:Very proud. We're very proud.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. Like I said, I know there's a lot going on in your world right now, as you work with the students and work together to fight this virus. And I appreciate you taking the time to join us today on the program.
Lyn Prater:Well, thank you, Derek. Thank you so much. I'm happy to have been here.
Derek Smith:Dr. Lynn Prater. Clinical professor of nursing at Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing, our guest today here on Baylor Connections.
Derek Smith:I'm Derek Smith. A reminder you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.