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Periop’s Vaccine Ambassadors

Publish Date: February 24, 2021

While understanding and accepting the need to achieve widespread vaccination, many people are still fearful, questioning its safety, efficacy, and risk. By volunteering in their communities to provide vaccines, perioperative nurses are well-positioned to calm their fears.

Periop Today recently spoke with two of these community-minded nurses to learn about the common questions they are getting and the answers they are giving to increase vaccine education. Their experience will help prepare perioperative nurses who are considering volunteering in their community.

Vaccinations in Texas
It had been more than 40 years since retired periop nurse Charlene Lancaster, RN, CNOR, had given a shot to a patient who was awake. But when she learned the health department in Austin, Texas was recruiting nurse volunteers to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, she jumped at the chance to help.

“Initially I was a bit nervous, but it did not take long to feel very comfortable with it and it was wonderful being able to inform them about the vaccine.”

As Lancaster continues to give her time weekly with a team of 25 volunteers administering around 2,000 vaccines in a 7-hour shift, she hears a number of common questions she’s happy to answer. Here are a few:

  1. What reactions should I expect?
    Lancaster lets them know what symptoms could be expected after each dose and explains the first signs of a reaction that require medical attention.
  2. When can I get my second dose?
    “Most have worked so hard to get the first appointment that they are concerned about being able get the second appointment,” she says. Lancaster explains how the timing needs to work between the first and second vaccine to ensure optimal efficacy, which she says helps people to feel more educated and confident with the process.
  3. How can I get my spouse vaccinated?
    “This is tough because I can’t help them get family scheduled for a vaccine. Lancaster encourages them to keep trying because vaccine access continues to improve.

Overall, the widespread enthusiasm and gratitude she hears from vaccine recipients is very rewarding. “I had a woman start crying after I had given her the vaccine because she was just so emotional and grateful to have been given the vaccine, that she just broke down.”

Vaccinations in Wisconsin

Cindy Suplinski, APNP, ACNS-BC, in Green Bay, Wisc., is also volunteering her time to give the vaccine in her hospital’s community clinic.

She provides vaccine education at the time of administration and during the 15-minute wait times. Like Lancaster, the most common questions she hears are about side effects, second dosing, and vaccine efficacy.

“We have assured the people getting vaccinated that there have been minimal, short term side effects and we are also encouraging those who are being vaccinated to sign up for V-Safe so they can report any symptoms,” Suplinski says. “This allows the maker of the vaccine to continue to collect data to give us more reliable information to pass on.”

Her hospital schedules the second dose at the time of the first dose and this has been well received. “There have been questions about getting the second dose at a different location because we have a lot of people here who winter in the South and we get questions about mixing brands of vaccines, which is not acceptable.”

Regarding efficacy after the first dose, Suplinski hears some vaccine recipients say they feel they are completely immune. “I have done a lot of education about how the first vaccine starts to build your immunity, but the biggest jump in immunity is after the second dose. I have also done a lot of educating that even after the second dose, we cannot let our guard down since we don’t know if we can still be asymptomatic carriers and we would not want to continue to spread COVID.”

For those who have had COVID, she reiterates what her hospital infectious disease physician is recommending—vaccination after symptoms are gone. “Some are waiting until closer to the 90 days after exposure for a variety of reasons.” 

Staying up to date with the most current information is very important to Suplinski. She participates in regular COVID-19 and vaccination educational updates provided by her hospital and follows clinical guidance from other professional sources to stay ahead of questions she may receive from vaccine recipients and other members of her community. 

“As a Clinical Nurse Specialist, my family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers come to me to seek out information and I really want to provide the most up to date/accurate information that I can,” she adds.

Staying Informed

On Feb. 11, The World Health Organization’s Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan explained common vaccine related questions. Watch here and find other COVID-19 questions answered.

The American Nurses Association has also released a vaccination information campaign to help trusted nurses educate their communities. Learn more here.

Related Resources

AORN Journal Perioperative Nurse Educators: Rapid Response to the COVID019 Pandemic

Perioperative Nurse Educators: Rapid Response to the COVID‐19 Pandemic - Peneza - 2021 - AORN Journal - Wiley Online Library

Learn more on How Periop Nurses and AORN Have Taken On COVID-19 in The Periop Life blog.