Making History: COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Offers Valuable Experience for OU Pharmacy, Nursing Students
For students in OU’s health professional colleges, the pandemic has added an unexpected facet to their medical training. As a means of gaining valuable experience, but also serving as an opportunity to help the broader fight against COVID-19, OU pharmacy and nursing students are volunteering to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers and community members at the OU Health Sciences Center.
More than 50 students from the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing at OU and the OU College of Pharmacy have volunteered to give vaccinations – some completing a three- or six-hour single shift and others completing a 160-hour rotation.
“With the vaccine approved in mid-December, the Phase 1 push occurred during the students’ winter break,” said Susan Conway, director of experiential education and professor in the College of Pharmacy. “When we reached out to our students, the request for volunteers was met with many immediate replies. The students were excited and enthusiastic to participate.”
The COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic is located in the new OU Health tower and is staffed by student pharmacists, pharmacy faculty preceptors, student nurses, nurse faculty preceptors, triage nurses, physicians and administrative support personnel.
“This is a win-win for the health care community and our students,” said Loren Stein, clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing. “Faculty and students were able to mobilize and be available very quickly and daily for weeks to be able to provide the manpower to give vaccines to thousands of OU Health employees.”
OU was able to quickly implement the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at OUHSC, transferring many of the same processes and procedures from the campus’ successful annual flu clinic. Over the past 10 years, the College of Pharmacy has overseen HSC’s flu clinic, administering in excess of 50,000 flu shots on the campus over the last decade.
Cindy Rieger, clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing, noted that the actual administration of the vaccine is only one portion of the process.
“Through the clinic, students receive experience in health screening, where they determine if it is safe to give the person the vaccine on that particular day,” she said. “Another vital portion of the process is the health education, which is given to the individual and their family before, during and after the administration of the vaccine.”
Anne Strom, a senior nursing student, shared the process used by students and clinic staff to determine potential health risks.
“Once an individual arrives at the clinic, much of the process is routine,” she said. “We ask questions like ‘Have you ever had a severe allergic reaction to any substance?’ and ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ After all their questions are answered, we go over the survey questions one more time to ensure they were answered accurately. The patient then chooses which arm they would like to receive the vaccine in, and I administer it. I let my patients know that I have received the vaccine and explain what my experience was like. My goal is to make every person feel at ease with the process.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed these students’ academic experience, the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic is a valuable opportunity for them to gain real-world experience.
“This learning experience has been invaluable to me,” said senior nursing student Sunbal Ahmad. “It may have taken me years to learn the things I did in just a few shifts doing COVID-19 vaccines and patient monitoring. I feel blessed to be a part of this process and to help in any way that I can.”
Averie Vardaman, a fourth-year pharmacy student, said, “I think we are pretty lucky to be on a campus that relies so heavily on students for clinics like this and allows us the opportunity to get so much first-hand experience.”
On Sunday, Jan. 10, Vardaman was able to administer the 10,000th dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Oklahoma.
“When I heard about pharmacy’s involvement in the COVID-19 vaccine clinics, I jumped at the chance to be able to do something meaningful for all of my amazing friends who have served tirelessly during the pandemic,” Vardaman said. “It means the world to me to be able to give back to a group of people who give everything they have to keep us safe.”
OU College of Pharmacy student Averie Vardaman administers the 10,000th dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Oklahoma.
Other students shared similar sentiments when asked what it meant to them to be involved with administering the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It is a privilege being able to take part in such a huge initiative,” said fourth-year pharmacy student Eugenie Chang. “This is a vaccine that is changing the course of history and saving lives. To be trusted with such an important task is definitely something I do not take lightly. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to take part in the clinic.”
Strom also shared that she is proud to be one of the students administering the vaccine to frontline workers.
“It truly is an honor to be a part of the efforts to end the pandemic,” she said. “This vaccine is that tiny light at the end of the tunnel. We have a way to go, but the vaccine is the first sign that we’re heading in the right direction.”
By Mackenzie Scheer
Article Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2021