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NEOMED Pharmacy Students Leading On-Campus Immunization Clinics

By Kim Smyth, PharmD Candidate, Nick Selle, PharmD Candidate and Tim Ulbrich, PharmD

Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) is a college of pharmacy, medicine and graduate studies that trains students to work in interprofessional teams.  In an effort to promote the spirit of interprofessional education, make the influenza vaccination more accessible for students and provide pharmacy students with experience immunizing, NEOMED pharmacy students organized three on-campus immunization clinics this fall.  

In order to be eligible to provide immunizations, second professional year pharmacy students become certified to give immunizations in class through the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Immunization Certificate Course.  This training occurs concurrently with the infection and immunity course that pharmacy students are taking with medical students. Therefore, while students are learning about immunity and vaccine preventable diseases, they are also learning how to administer vaccines. 

The on-campus clinics using pharmacy students started in 2011 when the university began requiring pharmacy and medical students to have documentation of the influenza vaccine in order to participate in experiential rotations.  To meet this requirement, three on-campus clinics were held in September of 2012 where pharmacy students, under the supervision of pharmacists, vaccinated both medical and pharmacy students with the influenza vaccine.  In total, 341 influenza vaccines were given by over 30 different student pharmacist volunteers.  Volunteers signed up to participate at the clinics through a shared Google document which was sent to all pharmacy classes in an email.  Second, third, and fourth year NEOMED pharmacy students are certified and administered the influenza vaccines. While first year professional students are not certified to provide immunizations, the upperclassmen aided in teaching them proper sterile technique when drawing up vaccines as well as what screening questions are important to ask prior to vaccine administration.  

Use of pharmacy students to provide immunizations are beneficial in several ways.  First, it is a cost effective way to provide immunizations.  Second, it is a great learning experience that allows students to gain confidence in providing immunizations after going through the certificate training program.  This hopefully will translate to pharmacy students going on to be practitioners that advocate for, offer and expand immunization services at their place of employment.  Third, it provides an opportunity to educate medical students on the evolving scope of practice of pharmacists, including the administration of vaccines.  It allows for a discussion about what vaccines pharmacists are allowed to give, what training is required and will hopefully allow for a greater understanding by the medical students of one aspect of patient care that pharmacists can do outside of dispensing prescriptions.  One medical student after being vaccinated said "It's often cheaper and more convenient for patients to get vaccinated at their retail pharmacy. I wouldn't want my patients to have to pay more for the shot or get billed for an office visit when they don't have to.”  Pharmacy students seem to mirror this sentiment with one saying, “Allowing vaccines to fit into the patient’s own schedule makes them more likely to be vaccinated and with the wide range of pharmacy hours already available, it is easiest for us to fit into their schedules.”

The comments by the medical and pharmacy students prove that this clinic is about more than administering vaccines; it is an opportunity to educate future physicians on the profession of pharmacy, what we are able to do and where we are headed. By doing this, physicians will graduate with a greater understanding and appreciation of what a pharmacist does. This ideally will translate into physicians and pharmacists working collaboratively to optimize patient outcomes.  

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