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Students an important part of Creighton’s COVID-19 team

Creighton University archWith the reopening of many U.S. colleges and universities for the fall semester, there were concerns that campuses would be fertile grounds for the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Institutions, including Creighton, responded with various processes and protocols – and, in Creighton’s case, not only were students asked to follow new guidelines, but, in some instances, they became part of the team dedicated to controlling and suppressing the virus.

Creighton students have manned screening stations, facilitated swabbing and testing procedures, helped their peers enter and exit quarantine and isolation and served as health aides charged with checking on student well-being, providing first-aid services and even administering medications.

As in years past, they helped with the “Shoo the Flu” campaign, assisting other students, staff and faculty in filling out paperwork and then directing them to stations where nursing, pharmacy and EMS students administered flu shots. Others have monitored residence halls, taking care that COVID-19 standards are being followed.

It has been a broad team effort, involving health aides, student health assistants, pharmacy and nursing students, and even a few pre-health students who helped with COVID-19 swabbing.

Kayla Schilke, who is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Health Administration and Policy with an accelerated nursing track, was among six student health assistants hired to handle COVID detection. The student health assistant is a new role, developed just this year.

Even before the current semester began, Schilke and her fellow students helped with COVID-19 testing of new students and anyone living off campus. Since then, they have manned screening stations where they take temperatures. They have also helped administer the Shoo the Flu program in various locations. Their commitment is between eight and 12 hours a week, during which students, faculty and staff in the hundreds are checked for COVID-19 symptoms or given the flu shots that will help avoid a disastrous combination of COVID-19 plus seasonal flu.

A “swing of things” has developed over the past several months, Schilke says, which has eased the process of screening and temperature monitoring.

“At the beginning of the school year, there was a lot of directing people on what to do, how to download the #CampusClear app and how to get approved to be on campus,” she says. “Now that we are in the swing of things, and everybody knows what’s going on, we just kind of greet the students, use the #CampusClear app, and enter into the system that they were cleared for that day.”

As assistant director of immunizations and compliance at Creighton, Jenni Bragg, RN, BSN, oversees the work being done by Schilke and her five student colleagues.

“Among the requirements is that they take HIPAA training and that they just be kind and empathetic to everyone who comes into our area,” she says. “They are great role models, and their peers see a good example of what it means to be in community during this pandemic. Just by their presence, and by their calmness during this chaotic time, truly and honestly, they pass that on and help build community.”

Then there are the campus health aides, who are distinct from the student health assistants.

Four of these have been hired and they remain constantly available to students who may be experiencing COVID or other symptoms.

“The campus health aides are dispatched through the Public Safety Department,” says Angela Maynard, RN, MSN, associate director for Student Health Education and Compliance. “They go see students. They have a duty bag that has many first-aid supplies, from over-the-counter medications to prescription medication. We’ve had many wonderful health aides.”

The advent of COVID has reshaped the way these student health aides do their work. When responding to a student in isolation or quarantine, or to somebody who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the calls are made by phone. All other concerns are addressed in person, with information passed to an on-call provider who is a Creighton physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner.

“Most of them come into the role already having certification in basic life support, which is really what they need,” Maynard says of the health aides. “Then they do a lot of on-the-job shadowing before they take calls on their own, to learn the flow of the work and the University communications that need to happen.”

Typically, Maynard says, students applying for the health aide positions bring some sort of health care experience, although such experience is not required. A surprising number, she says, have previously served as lifeguards. They each take calls one night a week and every fourth weekend.

Bragg says the assistance provided by the students is greatly appreciated.

“Even before COVID, I felt that we had a need for students to assist us,” she says. “Not only is it a journey for them to learn things, it’s also a journey for us to get to know the students and build connections, especially connections to student health, which is so important.”

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