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Published October 02, 2009, 09:18 PM

Nursing Students Take On Larger Role With H1N1

The UND Nursing program is sending more students out to help with flu vaccines in Grand Forks.

By: Joel Porter, WDAZ

Flu clinics have been busy in the past few weeks handling requests for the seasonal flu vaccine.

And with the H1N1 vaccine set to arrive shortly, the demand for nursing staff to give out the shots remains high.

And the U-N-D school of nursing is sending more students out into the community.

More than 50 public health nursing students have been helping administer shots to the public so far.

The dean of nursing says it's a valuable experience for the students, and they're providing a much needed service.

At the college of nursing at UND, students are put to the test almost daily, practicing on life-like simulators. But they're also called on the help in real-life situations, including flu clinics.

"To be quite honest, that's what the students love to do, they want to be out there with the community, with the population they're going to be caring for in the future, so they would much rather be in a clinical setting providing the immunization than sitting in a classroom," Hurley says.

Associate Dean Roxanne Hurley says the H1N1 outbreak is driving up the demand for nurses to help with immunizations, giving dozens of students a chance to log clinical hours in the field.

"This is what we would call a teachable moment where we can take something like this happening in the community, bring into all of our classroom discussion, get students involved in the immunization and it just becomes a very very good educational opportunity for our college," Hurley says.

Nearly 60 students specializing in public health have already assisted in flu clinics, but even more may be called on to help with flu shots in schools.

"Assisting the students to perform the skill in the community setting, they can provide many many more bodies so that we can get everybody in the community vaccinated," Hurley says.

Besides filling the necessary spots, associate dean Hurley says she hopes all of her future nurses gain valuable knowledge from dealing with H1N1 besides knowing how to give a shot.

"Encouraging our students to be advocates to the public. Our students are being prepared to be nursing leaders for the future, so they need to know how to respond to incidents like this that happen in the community," Hurley says.

Public health nurses have been assisting the Grand Forks health department, but Hurley says other nurses including those specializing in pediatrics may be utilized for school immunizations and clinics for young children.