Courage to lead through the pandemic
Joseph Wells is a final-year PharmD candidate at the Washington State University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
As many student pharmacists know, direct patient care has been difficult to navigate throughout the pandemic.
During my second and third academic years, I served as my APhA–ASP Chapter’s Operation Immunization chair. While my cohort and I were eager to organize and participate in patient care activities, we had to be cautious and stay constantly aware of personal safety and the recommendations set forth by CDC.
Some clinics we historically organized and staffed were at Washington State University’s (WSU) main campus is Pullman, WA. Pullman is a rural area, but at the start of every fall semester, the town has an influx of more than 20,000 students, faculty, and staff. To meet the area’s health care and immunization needs, students from WSU’s health sciences campus in Spokane, WA, often traveled there to assist in immunizations and other screening services. Though these efforts were hindered throughout the 2020 academic year, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine showed an increased need for our services.
With people still completing their original COVID-19 series, the rise of the Delta strain, and annual flu season upon us, fall 2021 brought about an unprecedented demand for vaccinations. As expected, Pullman organizers reached out to the Spokane campus seeking help to vaccinate students and faculty. They proposed “Flu Shot Fridays,” a series of vaccination clinics throughout the month of October to help patients get their influenza, COVID-19, and other necessary vaccines.
This was a task that required collaboration on multiple levels between multiple parties. We needed to assure adequate staffing and preceptor oversight, materials were provided, and the necessary space to facilitate workflow effectively was secured. To iron out all the details, Jennifer Robinson, PharmD, our chapter adviser, set up weekly meetings with specific organizations the month prior. Dr. Robinson and I helped spearhead these meetings to describe the requirements needed for clinics of this magnitude. It was my responsibility to coordinate tasks between organizations and delegate responsibilities to the Operation Immunization team. Through the efforts of multiple collaborators, we administered 1,403 vaccinations over the course of 4 clinics.
Remaining flexible during the turmoil
Throughout the pandemic, health care providers everywhere were asked to be flexible with the changing times. As student pharmacists, my team and I had to be creative to meet the needs of our community. When I took on my role as immunization chair, I had no idea how long the pandemic would last or how directly involved I would be with vaccination rollout. By remaining adaptable throughout the last two years, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to guide a team to provide critical health services during the biggest public health crisis in a century.
Staying versatile, working collaboratively as a team, and having the courage to change throughout the pandemic has been the best way I have found to be exposed to new opportunities and provide the best care to my patients and community.