DKICP pharmacy students got valuable real-life experience when they, along with faculty and staff, played a key role in the mass COVID-19 vaccination efforts earlier this year throughout the state of Hawaiʻi. A survey conducted by DKICP faculty showed that participation in vaccine points of distribution (PODs) had a positive impact on the students’ perceptions of the role of pharmacy in a public health crisis and helped them better understand the role of a pharmacist, as well as allowed them to practice technical and communication skills.
Nicole Young, Pharm.D.
“During the vaccination PODs and clinics last winter and spring, we were getting positive feedback from our students, anecdotally, but thought it would be valuable to quantify those impressions,” says Nicole Young, Pharm.D. and assistant professor, DKICP Department of Pharmacy Practice.
The survey, conducted in April by email, asked students who participated in one or more vaccination clinics to rate their abilities and confidence levels before and after volunteering. It also asked open-ended questions about what students learned regarding the role of pharmacy in a public health crisis, and the role of a pharmacist, in general.
Students frequently commented on having a better understand of the role pharmacists play in educating the public, especially during the pandemic. “The educational part of the job is very important,” says recent DKICP graduate Heather Gouveia, who volunteered at several PODs and clinics last winter, worked at Wahiawā Center for Community Health and now works at the vaccination clinic at Queens West on Oahu. “We help patients understand the risks and benefits of the vaccine and answer their questions. I really enjoyed that aspect of the job while volunteering and find it a rewarding part of my work now.”
Recognition that pharmacists are often one of the most accessible healthcare professionals to the general public was also frequently mentioned by students, notes Young. “Many students said they now understand that accessibility is even more important during a health crisis like the pandemic.”
Survey results showed that student confidence levels in vaccinating patients and prefilling syringes both increased after volunteering at one or more vaccination PODs. Using a rating scale of 1 to 5 (one being low and 5 being high), the mean student confidence level ratings in vaccinating patients increased from 3.9 prior to their POD/clinic participation to 4.8 afterward. Confidence in their abilities to prefill syringes with the vaccine rose from a mean rating of 3.4 to 4.7.
“Many of us hadn’t had the chance to use these skills since our P1 year, when we were vaccination-certified,” says Gouveia, “so it was very valuable to get the hands-on experience. After a full day or two of administering vaccinations or prefilling syringes, you definitely felt proficient.”
Young says that faculty members were happy with the survey results. “We also saw a lot of repeat volunteer participation at the clinics. Students said they really enjoyed being able to interact with the community, as well as other healthcare professionals.”