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4 June 2021
UWC nursing students train as vaccinators to bolster Western Cape’s fight against COVID-19
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) is boosting the province’s COVID-19 vaccination drive by training final-year nursing students as vaccinators. 

This is the first nursing student-vaccinator collaboration to be rolled out in the province, said Elrien Joubert, of the Western Cape Department of Health. “The collaboration was quite seamless, as UWC was sensitive to our requirements and needs,” said Joubert.

The department also has an established relationship with UWC’s School of Nursing through the clinical placement of student nurses as part of their training.

The 267 participating nursing students have been split into two groups, and the first cohort of 134 vaccinators is expected to be in the field from 17 June, said Jeffrey Hoffman, Portfolio Manager of the fourth year nursing students.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the university and the UWC School of Nursing to be involved. We strive to provide relevant training that will allow our students to contribute meaningfully, especially in preparation for their completion as professional registered nurses.”

The work will take place during the students’ mid-year break as part of their clinical placement. 

Professor Jennifer Chipps, Director of UWC’s School of Nursing (pictured) explained that the students completed their vaccination competency training already in their third year. With just months to go before their community service placement as professional registered nurses, these students are well-prepared to bolster the health sector’s efforts to vaccinate as many communities as possible.

“The students are doing the same training as other registered nurses involved in the vaccination drive,” added Professor Maggie Williams, division head of the School of Nursing’s clinical and community outreach programmes. 

They will work full-time at vaccination sites in the Cape Winelands (Stellenbosch, Paarl and Wellington) as well as Khayelitsha East and Northern Tygerberg in the Cape Metro. “The longer placement is to ensure that students are orientated with the requirements of the task. Also, the additional support to the staff at these sites during the third wave will be invaluable,” noted Joubert. 

Training is done online via the university’s zero-rated IKamva learning site, said Prof. Williams (pictured). The content is aligned with the national Department of Health vaccine training and includes a basic overview of COVID-19, an understanding of the various available vaccines, and information of the “nurse as observer” for those students who will be monitoring patients for side effects immediately after vaccination, explained Joubert. Prof. Williams emphasised that participation in the vaccinator collaboration is voluntary. “All of the students taking part have consented to being vaccinators.”

Fourth-year student Sibongile Fumhe said she is “excited” to be part of the collaboration. “Many people are not comfortable about the COVID-19 vaccine. Seeing others receiving the vaccine will hopefully motivate more people to do the same.”