With more sports teams from The University of Texas at San Antonio approaching the return of their season, and a new conference rule requiring weekly COVID-19 tests for all athletes, coaches and trainers, the School of Nursing stepped up to help take on the task of high-volume testing.

The UT Health Physicians primary care team initially set up an onboarding process to test student athletes as they returned to campus, working with their long-standing partners in the UTSA athletics department. But a new Conference USA requirement for ongoing, weekly testing for every athlete, coach and trainer, along with more UTSA teams joining the testing roster, meant a need for more help.

The School of Nursing responded to the need, ready to take action within a day.

“It was a whole team effort,” said Cindy Sickora, DNP, RN, vice dean of practice and clinical professor in the School of Nursing. “It was a large group of people coming together from the School of Nursing to actually make it happen. They were so committed to it.”

Last week, a team of seven from the School of Nursing tested 143 athletes in just over two hours, she said.

This week, they’re expecting to collect around 250 tests as the women’s soccer team and the women’s volleyball team will also be tested along with the men’s football team.

Speedy, thorough swabbing and collecting is key for the process to run smoothly, especially as the nursing team goes onsite to one of UTSA’s training facilities to conduct the tests. Before each testing day, the nurses receive a list of everyone to be tested so they can prepare and label each kit in advance.

“We can move through at a rate that doesn’t take up their entire day so that they can still get their practice in,” said Jane Smith, RN, with the School of Nursing. “It’s a really quick process, and that is our goal.”

Keeping up with this fast pace, test results from the lab in UT Health San Antonio’s pathology department are usually ready by the end of the day, said Smith.

Being able to meet the need for frequent testing with fast results is crucial for the Roadrunners to continue playing. The nursing team will provide this service every week for every UTSA athlete throughout the year.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s very fast and furious,” said Smith. “But it’s also fun. The players are so respectful and fun, and they’re very kind to us.”

Although the School of Nursing is now leading the charge for COVID-19 testing, UT Health Physicians continues to provide support to UTSA athletes for primary care needs along with specialized care such as cardiology and orthopaedics.

The collaboration between UT Health Physicians and the School of Nursing ensures continued access to care and services to partners at UTSA and throughout the community, said Dr. Sickora.

“COVID has taught us that health care is a team sport,” she said.