UW Pharmacy students assisting local pharmacies in vaccination efforts

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 10:29 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - In the fight against COVID-19, it’s all hands on deck. This includes UW Pharmacy students who have been assisting in the vaccination effort since supply became available in December.

Pharmacy Professor at the school, Mary Hayney, oversees the student vaccination effort.

“Pharmacy students are ready to volunteer,” Hayney said. “For example, many of them, unlike other healthcare providers, or licensed healthcare providers, they don’t have patient care responsibilities. So, they’re available and ready to help.”

Students assist in the logistical side of vaccine distribution: scheduling, billing insurance, and patient screening. Second year student Nikki Batterman, co-chair of the initiative coined Operation Immunization, has spent time on the paperwork side of the effort.

“Don’t get me wrong, the other work is definitely very important and it definitely takes a lot of burden off of the work flows and everything that happens at the clinics: like drawing up vaccines, making sure all the patients are screened properly, monitoring,” said Batterman.

Originally, first and second year students could only help with the administrative side as there is a vaccination course required to put doses into arms. However, the school has moved up the course in the curriculum to ensure as many students as possible are eligible for volunteer efforts.

Nick Olszewski, a third-year student, is volunteering at local pharmacies administering vaccines.

“I do like the vaccinating part more,” says Olszewski. “Just because the moment that you actually put it into their arms people are really excited. I always make sure to say congratulations because it is a pretty exciting time, even historic in its nature.”

Students and professors say that this project assists all involved: lightening the load of pharmacies managing the vaccine and giving opportunities for work experience to students.

“It offers the students great mentorship; it offers them great experience. Think about the experience that they’re getting of teaching patients about vaccines, talking to patients who might be a little hesitant, talking to patients about what to expect for adverse events,” said Hayney.

And students are excited about the opportunity: to volunteer, but also to make an impact.

“When I got the email that we were able to start helping out, I was pretty excited. Because after sitting and being at home and seeing other fellow pharmacy students and pharmacists being able to help, it was nice to see that as a student I was able to make an effort and an impact right now,” said second year student, Ashley Srb.

Batterman said, “all of us also want the pandemic to end as soon as possible so I’m definitely excited and happy to do my part.”

Olszewski finds inspiration both from the volunteering and watching his fellow peers’ excitement about the project.

He says, “I think that students are just so excited to be able to provide their input any way they can, whether that be vaccinating shifts or clerical work. I don’t know, it’s just exciting to be a part of it and it is kind of like a historical moment.”

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