Nurse Practitioner Documents Getting The COVID Vaccine - What To Expect
By, Dr. James Simmons, DNP, MSN, RN, AGACNP-BC
Trepidation. Anxiety. Excitement. Just some of the emotions going through my mind as I walk from one of the makeshift Covid units in my hospital to the conference room where a seasoned occupational health nurse is about to administer one of the very first Pfizer vaccines in the United States. To me.
Later in the week, larger hospitals all over the country with big budgets, public relations staff, and lots of extra resources will host press conferences of their first vaccine administrations. Deserving frontline healthcare providers will momentarily become household names, or at least experience a blip of notoriety for being one of the first.
Not at my hospital. We are too busy. We don't have enough nurses to appropriately staff the overflow tents in the parking lot, let alone blow-up balloons and hang signs on what should be a celebratory occasion.
Leading Up To The Vaccine
For now, it's just me, the occupational health nurse, and a respiratory therapist in the room. The CNO is in the hallway talking logistics with other administrators. The occ health nurse hands me a clipboard with four pages of tiny writing and instructs me to read everything, including the fine print, and to ask her directly if I have any questions. She half-jokingly promises a quiz at the end. I flashback to nursing school.
The paperwork isn't as cumbersome as I thought it would be, though the extensive list of questions about my medical history causes a momentary increase in my anxiety. This feeling, however, is fleeting.
I'm young-ish, fairly in shape, and privileged enough to have been able to do my research about this vaccine. For most of us, the risks associated with being infected with Covid are far greater than the risks associated with receiving this vaccine, despite what your sister-in-law's hairdresser’s babysitter's dog-walker's uncle's ex-coworker said in a meme on Facebook.
Getting The Vaccine
I sign my name multiple times, including on my new CDC Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card which I'm strangely proud to have. The conference room is quiet as the respiratory therapist sits in a chair scrolling through Tik Tok on his phone. He's required to stay in the room for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccination for monitoring. I ask him and my new occ health nurse bestie if I can record my vaccination process for social media. They agree.
Because nurses, we teach. It's what we do. And I believe in the power of educating the public through social media. That aforementioned meme is doing significant damage to the public's confidence in what will likely be a life-saving vaccine for many. Who better to combat misinformation with science, facts, and documented first-person experiences than nurses?
With a tiny pinch, some pressure, and a few moments of inexplicably holding my breath, the vaccine is done. I managed to not drop my phone while recording the whole thing, a video I will later post to social media with a promise to bring my followers along my vaccine journey. I don't have a huge following. However, unlike many nurses on social media my followers, on the whole, are not other nurses or healthcare providers - and they have lots of questions. By sharing my experiences I'm hoping I can answer some of those questions, alleviate a few fears, and chip away at the viral misinformation machine that is plaguing our ability as a country to overcome the actual viral plague.
How I Felt After The Vaccine - Side Effects and Symptoms
Ten minutes later I feel flushed. I force myself to breathe slowly and check my smartwatch. My heart rate is 88. Normal for me. I do a quick check of the skin on my arms, my legs, my belly. I'm certain I'm about to grow a third arm. Maybe all those nay-sayers were right! No rash. I'm not wheezing. I take another deep breath, jot down the time, and decide the vaccine is maybe actually just doing what it's supposed to do. I get paged about a critical ABG and call the nurse back right away. During that call, I get two more pages. Three phone calls and 15 minutes later I realize I'm no longer flush, my heart rate is 83, and I've not grown a third arm.
"Like a pretty good bruise" is what I tell folks it feels like when I push on my left deltoid. No actual bruise ever develops. I document the next 72 hours in a series of short videos that also get posted to social media. Luckily, the sensation of a bruise goes away in a couple of days and I never experience any other issues. Unluckily, I've relinquished my soul, altered my DNA to be encrypted as binary code, and apparently been paid handsomely by Bill Gates to lie about getting the vaccine, at least according to folks online.
So far the folks online are wrong. But I'll check in after the second dose. I'm not completely ruling out that third arm.
Dr. James Simmons, DNP, MSN, RN, AGACNP-BC is a Hospitalist NP in Los Angeles, founder of the online community Ask The NP (Everything You're Too Scared To Ask Your MD), frequent medical contributor as seen on CBS, FOX, SiriusXM, Dash, Radio.com, etc. and proud practitioner of snark. He can be found @AskTheNP on Instagram and Twitter, and @AskTheNP_ on Tik Tok.
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