Amherst Wire

UHS helps prepare students against the flu

Vaccinations are easily accessible for those who want them

University+Health+Services+is+helping+students+protect+themselves+against+the+flu+this+year+with+vaccine+clinics+held+in+the+Commonwealth+Honors+College+%28Michael+Connors%2FAmherst+Wire%29.
University Health Services is helping students protect themselves against the flu this year with vaccine clinics held in the Commonwealth Honors College (Michael Connors/Amherst Wire).

University Health Services is helping students protect themselves against the flu this year with vaccine clinics held in the Commonwealth Honors College (Michael Connors/Amherst Wire).

University Health Services is helping students protect themselves against the flu this year with vaccine clinics held in the Commonwealth Honors College (Michael Connors/Amherst Wire).

Michael Connors, Assistant Campus News Editor

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AMHERST — As cooler temperatures and the changing color of leaves signal the renewal of autumn in the Northeast, so does the beginning of the flu season. However, University Health Services (UHS) and the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst already had a plan in place to start vaccinating as many students, faculty and staff as possible through their many walk-in flu clinics.

UHS has scheduled 16 separate walk-in flu clinics both at the main UHS building and in different areas across campus, with dates ranging from Oct. 5 to Dec. 7. The vaccination cost of $30 is billed to students’ health insurance, whether that be to a private provider or through the university’s Student Health Benefit Plan.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Protection (CDC), the influenza virus, more commonly referred to as the flu, starts to spread in the United States during the months of October and November, with the season sometimes lasting all the way until May. The CDC recommends anyone over the age of 6 months to be vaccinated against the flu.

Ann Becker, registered nurse, D.N.P. and public health nurse at UHS, has coordinated the campaign to vaccinate the campus community for the last fifteen years. Becker said that as a public health nurse, it was her job to continue the practice of making flu clinics easily accessible to students by placing many of the clinics in residence halls and dining commons.

“I really believe that making health maintenance activities such as getting a vaccine easy and convenient for the average student is one of the most important aspects of public health,” said Becker. “I want students to have a really good reason for why you missed your vaccination. How could you miss it?”

At most of the on-campus clinics, flu shots are performed by students from the College of Nursing as part of their junior year clinical experience. Although UHS had been vaccinating students against the flu long before Becker came to UMass, it was her idea to train and utilize nursing students to give out flu shots.

“Incorporating the nursing program helps us have a great team of people ready. If for some reason we ever need to do a mass vaccination we now have over 150 nursing students trained and ready to go at the drop of a hat,” Becker explained. “I consider it part of our emergency preparedness.”

Students in the nursing program at UMass help vaccinate around 5,000 community members a year, Becker said. In 2009-10, UHS expanded their reach to the town of Amherst to help vaccinate over 15,000 people from the H1N1 virus.

Emily Cooper, a junior nursing student at UMass said the flu clinics help her take what she has learned in the classroom and apply it to a much more practical and real setting. In addition to the UMass flu clinics, nursing students are also placed in hospitals and rehab centers around the area for a more hands-on learning approach.

“We learn all of this stuff in books, so to actually sit here with the flu vaccine and give it is very cool,” said Cooper. “The learning curve is a lot at first, since we spend the first few weeks training with the vaccine before we go to clinical. But after that, it’s really all about practice and it’s really rewarding to help people.”

Last Friday, the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall was filled with about 15 students waiting to receive their flu shot. Matt Turcotte, a junior English and sustainable food and farming major said he didn’t know about the flu clinic until one of his friends, a nursing student at the clinic, made a Facebook event and invited him and his friends to come get a vaccination.

“I used to get my flu shot every year in high school because I was at home, but since I’ve been at UMass I haven’t really thought about it as much,” said Turcotte. “But I do think it’s important to get your flu shot. There is no good reason to not do it.”

In addition to the flu clinics across campus, students can also receive their flu shot at any scheduled appointment at UHS.

Email Michael at [email protected]

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UHS helps prepare students against the flu