12 Jul 2021

Needles in 'simulation arms' for Covid-19 vaccination training

From Checkpoint, 5:38 pm on 12 July 2021

Fake arms, dozens of needles and syringes and some deep breaths have been part of the training for a brand new batch of Covid-19 vaccinators.

They are members of a new immunisation workforce, people not already trained to vaccinate but who will be taught from scratch for the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Training sessions are just beginning around the country and are due to ramp up in the next few weeks.

About 12 people were put through their practical paces at Turuki Healthcare in Māngere - strapping fake upper arms onto one another and practising delivering the vaccine from a needle attached to an empty syringe.

Centre manager Renee Muru-Barnard said it was a big help that the it was already a vaccination clinic so the team was comfortable with the routine.

But it was another thing to give pretend injections.

"I thought 'oh it'll be easy when it's not someone's actual arm,' but it is a little bit daunting at the beginning," she said.

After a day of hands-on training it was all coming together, she said.

All of the new vaccinators will have to do at least five in-the-field sessions with a health professional before they finally pass.

At this session they also role-play, one being a nervous patient, the other putting them at ease and they learn to dispose of the needle correctly and to check the patient is okay.

A trainee practices performing a vaccination.

A trainee practices performing a vaccination. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

School health worker Tatiana Rouru said it was a bit nerve-racking at first but it was great to get lots of practice.

She wanted to help ease the load on nurses.

"Any stress that I can take of some of the nurses, that'll be good because it reenergizes them to do their job in the week," she said.

About 6500 vaccinators are needed nationwide and they need to be from different backgrounds.

A needle is inserted into a 'simulation arm' in Covid-19 vaccine training.

A needle is inserted into a 'simulation arm' in Covid-19 vaccine training. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Muru-Barnard said having someone from their own community giving them a shot could put people at ease, particularly if they were hesitant.

She hoped the new trainees, and others like them, would help to reach more people including in outlying rural areas.

Kena Waikai from Waikato Tainui said whānau and community were front of mind when he signed up for the training.

"They trust the people that they know, instead of someone that they don't so our whānau putting the trust in the people that they know does make the difference," he said.

This new class of vaccinators will always give the injections with the support of registered nurses or doctors.

Immunisation Advisory Centre educator Aimee Brass.

 Aimee Brass. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

The Immunisation Advisory Centre is carrying out the training and educator Aimee Brass said there had been a lot of interest from around the country.

It was heartening that everyone at the latest session talked about being there to help their community, she said.

"It is really a skill that can be taught easily and with practice, people can become more comfortable," she said.