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OHIO medical and nursing students combat COVID by administering vaccines to fellow students, community

Published: April 29, 2021 Author: Samantha Pelham

Ohio University medical and nursing students gained first-hand clinical experience while combating COVID by administering vaccines at OHIO’s Heritage Hall vaccination clinic to their fellow students and the community.

“It is so exciting to have an opportunity for the students of the Heritage College to partner with their colleagues from the OHIO nursing program to give back to our community by assisting in vaccination efforts,” Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Athens campus Dean Beth Longenecker, D.O., said. “Not only is this a chance for students to directly provide care and impact the health of residents in the county, this is also an opportunity for interprofessional teamwork and a way for Ohio University to lend support to the incredible and dedicated team at the Athens City-County Health Department.”

To gain student volunteers, the Heritage College and the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) reached out to medical and nursing students who would be interested in distributing the vaccine and helping the OHIO community. Those interested were then given online modules for training and an in-person session on the steps of delivering a shot, as well as entering it into the online system.

Many medical and nursing students expressed interest in volunteering for the historic event, so students have been working the clinic every day in different shifts.

“Distributing the vaccine has been extremely rewarding and exciting as a medical student,” Kiran Philoria, a first-year medial student in the Heritage College, said. “Being in a hybrid model the past year, it has been awesome to come out and gain clinical experience in real time. It has been great to see individuals of all ages getting vaccinated, hopefully towards a healthier community for all. Under the supervision of nursing staff and the Athens City-County Health Department, I, and many of my peers, have learned so much on vaccines, technique, and public health.”

Philoria, a native of Columbus, added that the experience has been incredibly immersive from the student perspective as well as heartwarming from the community perspective.

The clinics ran five days a week, with OHIO students able to receive their vaccine on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and the community clinic available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Other students from CHSP, the Heritage College and the College of Arts and Sciences have also volunteered their efforts in non-clinical ways, serving as support for the Heritage Hall vaccination clinic through managing sign-ups, temperature checks, and providing on-site support.

“I’m grateful to the nursing program to have given me the opportunity to be in the position I’m in today – giving my peers and the community the vaccine,” Andrew Bruno, a fourth-year nursing student in CHSP, said. “I feel honored to be able to help and actively learn and practice what I’m being taught in the classroom. It’s especially rewarding to be able to help our fellow students and those coming to college for the first time who missed out in the past year due to COVID. Being able to give them the vaccine and take a step to herd immunity and normalcy felt amazing.”

All student volunteers worked side by side with the Athens City-County Health Department (ACCHD) leaders and nurses, learning from them and lending a hand to those who have been serving the community since the beginning of the pandemic.

“This vaccination clinic has been a phenomenal partnership, where the boundaries of all our organizations have broken down for the pure good, trying to eradicate this worldwide pandemic,” OHIO Chief Medical Affairs Officer and Heritage College Executive Dean Ken Johnson, D.O., said.

According to the ACCHD, as of April 27, 36.04% of Athens County has received at least one dose of a vaccination. Overall, 10,449 first doses and 7,496 second doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed, with the majority of those doses being administered at Heritage Hall. To find vaccination data related to Athens County, individuals can visit the Ohio Department of Health vaccination dashboard.

“At CHSP, our commitment to service in health is embedded in everything we do. Since January, our students, faculty and staff have volunteered their time and expertise in support of OHIO’s collaborative community vaccination effort,” said Interim CHSP Dean John McCarthy, Ph.D. “Our Nursing faculty have done a fantastic job to both prepare and enable its students to play a vital role in OHIO’s student vaccination efforts, and we’re proud to be making such a positive impact in this historic public health effort.”

Since the first vaccine clinic in January, CHSP has provided more than 120 volunteers, both clinical and non-clinical, with nursing faculty and students joining in mid- to late February. Approximately 10 different nursing students were on site each day based on their clinical group.

“The partnership with Ohio University has been essential to the success of the ACCHD vaccination distribution plan,” Ruth Dudding, director of community health and engagement at ACCHD, said. “We couldn't have achieved this success with the current timeline for distribution without the help from students, faculty, and OUHCOM nurses, as well as help from OhioHealth staff.”