Medical, nursing students step up in COVID-19 vaccination efforts
In the United States, medical and nursing students have stepped up to help with COVID-19 vaccination rollout efforts.
Many states have allowed these students — after receiving additional training — to administer COVID-19 vaccines while completing their studies.
Medical students have previously been used to help alleviate the strain on the health care system caused by the pandemic, with many institutions allowing fourth-year students to graduate and enter the workforce early, if they had completed their graduation requirements.
Healio Primary Care spoke with students who are aiding vaccination distribution efforts in their communities to learn more about how their education is being affected and what they are learning from the experience.
Students meeting need for vaccinators
Benjamin Potee, an MD candidate in the Class of 2024 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said he was “thrilled” upon learning he could administer COVID-19 vaccines while still a medical student.
“So much of this year has about losing things we can no longer do safely: anatomy lab, in-person classes, etc.,” he said. “It’s exciting to be part of a unique and critical effort to end this pandemic.”
As with other clinical experiences, medical students are not compensated for their work administering COVID-19 vaccines, and participation in the vaccination effort is on a volunteer basis.
Potee and other students from the University of Massachusetts received training from students in the graduate school of nursing, including Paige Laperle, BS, RN, a student in the Graduate Entry Pathway to Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Class of 2023.
Laperle said that she and other students in the Graduate Entry Pathway to Doctor of Nursing Practice Program are applying the hours spent volunteering for COVID-19 vaccination efforts toward community service, which they are asked to complete as part of the program.
“When I picked my group in late summer 2020, we thought the COVID-19 vaccine was still far off in the future, so the original plan was for our initiative to focus on flu vaccinations,” she said. “It all happened so fast, where one day we were preparing our modules and training sessions for basic [intramuscular (IM)] injections, and the next we were scrambling to get the trainings live because the demand for COVID-19 vaccinations happened overnight.”
Part of the COVID-19 vaccination training, according to Potee, includes practicing injections on training pads, then on fellow students.
As a result of this training, Potee said he is now more comfortable administering these injections. He also said that his training and volunteer work has not disrupted his education.
“I am thankful that all of our lectures are recorded, which makes it easy to get caught up after a morning shift vaccinating,” he said. “Medical school remains immensely challenging, but being able to do this work makes up for some of the time we have lost in clinic due to COVID-19, and I always leave shifts glad to have made a small positive difference in a massive logistical effort.”
Alleviating strain to workforce
Laperle said that she “was overwhelmed with gratitude” when given the opportunity “to finally make a difference in this fight.”
“I think anything we can do at this point will alleviate the strain on the workforce,” Laperle said. “The more vaccinators we have, the more vaccines we can administer, the faster we can attempt to reach herd immunity.”
She added that the use of clinical students in vaccine rollout efforts will have a “trickle-down” effect on the pandemic.
“Ultimately, if we can increase the number of vaccinators, we can decrease the number of COVID-19 patients and relieve the health care system,” she said.
Potee said the administrators at his institution’s employee vaccination sites “are glad to have our help.”
“I think we have our largest delta in helping with community vaccination drives, though,” he added. “Even in a health care-rich state like Massachusetts, public health departments are perennially underfunded, and are being asked to do significant logistical and clinical work as part of the vaccine rollout. It’s an honor to be working alongside them as we vaccinate people who are among the mostly likely to contract and die from COVID-19.”
UMass Med. UMass Medical School students ready to serve on COVID-19 vaccination front lines. https://www.umassmed.edu/news/news-archives/2021/01/umass-medical-school-students-ready-to-serve-on-covid-19-vaccination-front-lines. Accessed February 16, 2021.