Students nurses who refuse vaccination struggle to complete their degrees

Kaitlyn Hevner will complete the University of North Florida's 15-month accelerated nursing program in December. She'll be working 12-hour weekends at a hospital with medical-surgical patients for her clinical training in fall.

Students nurses who refuse vaccination struggle to complete their degrees

Hevner and other nursing students are now in a precarious situation. Their nursing careers and clinical training could be at risk due to their stance.

The Biden administration announced in September that all workers at hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers would have to be vaccinated with covid vaccines. Experts predict that students who are completing clinical training at these sites will need to be vaccinated as well, although the details of this federal rule won't be available until October.

Representatives of the nursing profession believe that students should be vaccinated if required by clinical facilities in order to finish their clinical training. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, eight other nurse organizations and a policy brief were released Monday. They suggested that students who refuse vaccinations or who are unable to meet the clinical requirements of the nursing program may be removed from the program.

Maryann Alexander, the chief officer for nursing regulation at The National Council, stated that it was not possible to have students working in an environment that could expose patients to serious illnesses. Students can refuse to get the vaccine. However, those who aren't exempt from the rules might be advised that they shouldn't be enrolled in a nursing program.

Alexander stated, "You're going into practice and you will be very limited in what you do if you don't get that vaccine."

Hevner, who is 35 years old, will be finishing her clinical training in October. She said that she does not believe it's acceptable for a vaccine to be developed from fetal cells that were obtained via abortion. This she strongly opposes. The Johnson & Johnson covid vaccine was developed using a cell line derived from an abortion. However, some vaccine testing was done with fetal cells. However, many religious leaders support vaccination against covid.

Nursing educators are trying to find places for unvaccinated students in facilities that accept them, despite the fact that vaccines are still not required in many settings.

Roseann Maresca is an assistant professor who coordinates the clinical training of third-semester students at Indian River State College. It's located just off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida. She said that only 150 students are currently vaccinated against covid.

Some of the eight hospitals that contract with the school do not require student nurses to get vaccinated.

Maresca stated that it was a nightmare to transfer students to different facilities depending on their vaccination status.

Health care facilities require employees to be vaccinated against influenza and hepatitis B. This is a common requirement. These requirements have taken on a new urgency due to the pandemic. FierceHealthcare's September report shows that more than 170 health care systems have mandated co-dispense vaccines to their workers.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarified in May that employers can require covid vaccinations if workers are allowed to claim religious or medical exemptions.

The covid plan of the Biden administration requires that approximately 50,000 health care facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid payments require their workers to be immunized. It is not clear how nurses who are assigned to sites that provide clinical training for nursing students will be treated until the October release of the draft rule by the administration.

The federal rule that established regulations for payments to government hospitals in 2022 was published in August. Colin Milligan, American Hospital Association director of media relations, stated that it defined the health care personnel who should be vaccinated in terms of employees, independent contractors, adult students/trainees, and volunteers.

Biden's plan states that mandates will be applied to individuals who provide services under agreements at health care sites, in addition to staff.

A spokesperson for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services did not clarify who would be covered under the Biden plan. However, the spokesperson noted that the agency is still drafting the rules.

However, mandatory vaccinations could cause serious problems for a small number of nursing students. According to a survey conducted by the National Student Nursing Association, 86% of nursing students were vaccinated against covid. 85% of all nursing graduates responded to an online survey.

However, the results varied by state. They ranged from 100% in New Hampshire, Vermont, and 63% in Oklahoma to 74% in Kentucky, and 76% in Florida to the low end. There were 7,501 people who responded to the survey.

Students who do not want to get vaccinated should ask schools for alternatives to on-site clinical training. Marcia Gardner, the dean of Molloy College's nursing school in Rockville Centre (New York), said that they recommend using computer-controlled mannequins with life-size sizes or computer-based simulations with avatars.

Many nursing programs increased simulation clinical training last year when hospitals closed their doors to students due to the pandemic. This was to provide nursing students with some clinical experience.

However, it is not a substitute for real patient care in a healthcare setting. Alexander stated that while state nursing boards allow simulated clinical studies to be done to varying degrees, none permit more than 50% of the clinical training. Multisite research found that simulation could be used to help nursing students up to half of their clinical training, with no adverse impact on competence.

According to the council of state nurses boards, the policy brief states that nurse education programs are not required to offer substitute or alternative clinical experiences for students based on their request or preference for vaccines.

The issue will become less urgent as more nursing students are vaccinated. The Biden plan will require nursing students to be vaccinated in order to work in hospitals. This will likely lead to a further decrease of the number who are still unvaccinated.

Hevner, a University of North Florida student said that she is not against vaccines and would consider getting a vaccine for covid if it wasn't made from aborted fetal cell. To be exempt from the vaccine requirements, she filed paperwork with the college. She didn't need it because Orange Park Medical Center where she is completing her clinical training doesn't require nurses or staff to be vaccinated against covid.

Hevner is against the vaccine but she stated that she takes protecting her patients and herself very seriously. She said that she is regularly tested for covid, and wears an N95 face mask in clinical settings. "But, I'd like to ask: Are we willing to give up our religious rights and our self-determination because we work in a healthcare setting?"

She hopes that the profession will be able to accommodate people like herself. She said, "I am concerned because we are in such a divisive position." She is determined to find a compromise because she believes she would make a great nurse.

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