Student pharmacists from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy have volunteered to assist in administering COVID-19 vaccinations across the state.
Students on the UTHSC campus in Memphis have worked alongside University Health Services and students from other colleges to administer vaccinations for priority groups defined by the Centers for Disease Control, including medical residents, students on clinical rotations, and faculty in direct clinical practice.
Chasity Shelton, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, BCPPS, assistant dean for student success, said student pharmacists in their second, third, and fourth years have received certification and are able to draw up and administer injections under the supervision of faculty members, while first-year students have assisted with traffic flow, registration, and observing patients after the injection.
She said the student pharmacists sit down with each patient prior to the vaccination to review the vaccine, and this has been the most valuable experience for the students.
“They’ve been talking with the patients about risks and benefits, potential side effects,” Dr. Shelton said. “To be able to talk with a patient about why they should consider getting the vaccine is an important skill for them, because vaccine hesitancy is something that pharmacists encounter even with other vaccines that have been on the market for years.”
DJ Barrow, a fourth-year student in Memphis, administered vaccines on the UTHSC campus. He said being involved in the immunizations has helped him learn how to educate others on vaccines.
“Getting this experience and being able to volunteer helps me be a resource for others,” he said. “I talk to the patients about it, I can talk to my family about it, and I can talk to others who may not understand what the vaccine is, what it does, and how it works.”
Glenise Davis, a first-year student on the Memphis campus, volunteered as an observer, monitoring patients in a waiting area after their vaccinations.
“I volunteered to be an observer because I know there is some anxiety about this vaccine,” she said. “So I was there to watch them, answer their questions, and reassure them.”
In Knoxville, a team of students led by Leslie Hamilton, PharmD, FCCP, FCCM, BCPS, BCCCP, associate professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Science, has worked in partnership with the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Medical Center to administer vaccines to frontline healthcare workers.
Lindsey Fields, a third-year student on the Knoxville campus, assisted in drawing up the vaccines on the first day she was able to volunteer. She said it was an exciting day to see frontline workers finally vaccinated.
“Being able to vaccinate the people who are dealing with this pandemic day-in and day-out made me feel like I was really able to make a difference,” Fields said.
Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, MPH, MBA, FCCP FASHP, FAST, dean of the UTHSC College of Pharmacy, said she is proud to have so many student pharmacists volunteering in this process.
“These vaccinations are very important for our country and our state,” Dean Chisholm-Burns said. “I’m proud that our student pharmacists are playing such a significant role in public health by assisting in the vaccination process This experience will be invaluable for them and further highlights the important role pharmacists play on the health care team.”