WSU students help conduct COVID-19 testing in Yakima

Eleven students divided into two groups work alternating days at testing clinic



Testing is being done at a mobile dental clinic. People can drive up and receive testing from medical professionals who are outside the clinic. 

ANDREA GONZALEZ, Evergreen reporter

A student with the WSU College of Nursing in Yakima is helping conduct COVID-19 testing for Yakima residents. 

Yakima was a COVID-19 hotspot during the summer, said Lisa Vickers, Yakima campus director of  WSU College of Nursing. The Yakima County Health District contacted the Washington State Department of Health to conduct COVID-19 testing.

The number of positive cases in Yakima and other agricultural communities disproportionately impacted farm and warehouse workers. During the summer, hundreds of fruit warehouse workers went on strike because many Yakima County businesses failed to implement safety precautions for their workers, according to the Yakima Herald.

The college partnered with Medical Teams International, which is a faith-based organization. Vickers said a WSU alumni who volunteered with Medical Teams International got in contact with her. She was able to get an affiliation contract in place with the help of the dean and chancellor of the College of Nursing.

Testing began in late September, and a group of 11 students volunteer twice a week to help conduct testing, she said. 

The students are divided into two groups, and they work alternating days, Vickers said. 

The students have been educated on infection control, personal protection equipment and procedure training.

Testing is being done at a mobile dental clinic, which is set up drive-thru style, she said. People can drive up and receive testing from medical professionals who are outside the clinic. 

They conduct hundreds of tests each week, she said. The tests are sent to a lab run by the University of Washington in Seattle. Individuals receive their results three to five days following the test. 

The UW lab is where most COVID-19 testing is being done in the state, she said. It is also where Medical Teams International run their lab through, she said. 

The student volunteers work directly with a population affected by COVID-19, Vickers said. This allows them to apply their education to the experience. Vickers said she hopes students see the value of volunteering. 

Senior nursing student Makenna Hellman said she did not think it would be possible to get hands-on experience because clinicals were put on hold last semester because of COVID-19. Hospitals had personal protection equipment shortages, she said. 

Hellman said she ranked Medical Teams International as the number one clinical she wanted to do. This was because she wanted to gain experience with testing and support individuals who are scared.  

Hellman said she was nervous starting out because she did not have experience conducting COVID-19 testing. 

It was interesting to see firsthand the symptoms individuals were experiencing and to then provide testing, she said. 

The drive-thru testing sites Hellman helped at have been very busy, she said. She said it was interesting to go to the community and see the impact testing has had. 

“I really wanted to, you know, be a part of helping out in any way that I possibly could,” Hellman said. “Being able to experience actually helping out in testing during a pandemic will be very helpful in … my future nursing practice.”