Nursing students prepare for flu season


Junior nursing major Katelyn Alvarez gets a vaccine ready for flu shots in the Meriam Library breezeway. Photo credit: Franky Renteria

Flu season has arrived and many students are considering the benefits of getting their annual flu shots offered for free by the student health center.

The annual flu clinic is being held outside of the Meriam Library breezeway from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m on Oct. 10 and, Oct. 20. The vaccine provides protection against A/H1N1 influenza viruses, influenza A/H3N2 and influenza B, according to health center representatives.

The vaccines are being administered by Chico State students enrolled in the nursing program.

Sarah Otten, a senior in the nursing program, said during their first semester they have a skills lab and learn how to give injections by practicing on mannequins with needles.

“From our second semester on we have a competency test where our proctors see us administer shots to the mannequins to evaluate and sign off on whether or not we are proficient enough to administer shots to actual patients,” she said.

Once Otten moved into clinical status she was able to administer her first shot to a patient at Enloe Rehab. With the stringent training provided by the nursing program, Otten felt sufficiently trained to administer vaccines.

No medical records are necessary to receive the shot on campus, although nursing students will ask students to fill out a form containing questions regarding allergies.

Though it is impossible to predict what the flu season will be like this year, the CDC recommends a flu shot annually for everyone six months and older. They recommend getting the shots anytime between now until the end of October.

In spite of the recommendations, there is some controversy surrounding the annual flu vaccines. Some question whether it is worth the risk, considering the possible side effects that can occur among a minority of recipients.

Jolene Nixon is a registered nurse and has been the director of clinical services at Enloe Medical Center for 20 years.

She said that many young people, including her own son, have reservations about getting the vaccine because they think they may get sick from the vaccine itself or feel that they can handle the flu without medication.

“Young people will typically recover from the flu, but the problem is that if they don’t get the vaccination,” she said. “They are exposing young children and elderly persons at high risk since those patients’ immune systems aren’t as effective as those of healthy young adults.”

Nixon said that is why health care professionals encourage everyone to get the vaccination if they aren’t among the small minority who have an adverse reaction to it.

There also has been controversy regarding whether the timing of the flu shot vaccine is accurate.

“I think there might be a perception that because of our flu season peaks from January through March it is too early in the season now to get the shot,” Nixon said. “However, with increased traveling and holidays occurring in this season, the CDC does suggest getting the vaccine as early as it’s available, usually by early October.”

Enloe also offers free clinics for the flu shot, administered by registered nurses.

“Side effects are rare, but our staff is trained in how to deal with an emergency anaphylactic reaction,” Nixon said.

Nixon said that although such occurrences are rare for flu shots, any vaccine can cause a severe reaction but she has never experienced an incident in her 20 years of working at Enloe.

Kaley Wise can be reached at [email protected] or kaley_jo_wise on Twitter.