Queen’s medical students assist in Kingston vaccine campaign

More than 200 medical students volunteer in initiative

Primarily first- and second-year medical students are involved in administering vaccines.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

More than 200 Queen’s medical students have answered a call for assistance from the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) as the Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) region ramps up its vaccine rollout. 

According to Dr. Jane Philpott, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences­ (FHS), medical students have been keen to get involved with aiding relief efforts for COVID-19 since the first vaccines were approved in Canada in January. 

When Dr. Elaine Ma, Med ’12, contacted the FHS to offer medical students the opportunity to get involved in vaccine rollout to compensate for a shortage in staff, Philpott reached out to students.        

After connecting with Aesculapian Society President Tony Li, Med ’23, medical students responded to the call.

“They jumped at the opportunity,” Philpott said in an interview with The Journal. “They’ve been really active and have been doing a really great job. I’ve heard from people who have gotten their vaccines from students and they said they did a really great job.”

Two hundred Queen’s medical students are currently involved with the vaccine rollout, according to Philpott. There are a total of 400 medical students enrolled in the Queen’s School of Medicine. 

Most of the students involved with the vaccine rollout in Kingston have received necessary training for administering vaccines in their curriculums. Students are combining their traditional curriculums with training that is specific to the vaccine centres, Philpott said.

“In first and second years of medical school, [students] get training through a number of opportunities and clinical settings. They learn all their anatomy so they know what part of the body to give the vaccinations. Students are also highly trained in using personal protective equipment (PPE),” Philpott said. 

“At the sites students are working, they are supervised and have guidance from the particular site about how the site is run, so it’s a combination of things that would normally be a part of their training with additional training taking place related to how the site is running.”

Li, who has been working in vaccine centres for the last three weeks, said students were learning on-site very quickly.

“We’re trying to be very efficient with an assembly line style. We’re administering several hundred vaccines a day,” Li told The Journal. “As soon as you’re able to learn, and medical students learn rather quickly, they just send us loose.”

Primarily first- and second-year medical students are involved in administering vaccines, according to Li. Whereas most third- and fourth-year medical students are currently working in clinical rotations, first- and second year-students in Kingston are available to respond to the call for assistance.

Medical students work in four hour shifts of six students. Approximately 140 vaccines are given each shift, Li said, with individual medical students administering up to 60 vaccines per shift.

Medical students are involved in all aspects of the vaccination process, ranging from screening patients to taking information, administering the vaccine, and monitoring patients for aftereffects following the vaccine’s administration. 

As vaccine supplies increase throughout the summer months, Philpott hopes to see this initiative offer more opportunities for both medical and nursing students to become involved. 

“Our nursing students have been involved in different projects surrounding helping out in long-term care facilities,” Philpott said. “Both med students and nursing students have been involved in a northern remote community’s project for vaccinations, so we will continue to let students know when there is an opportunity to volunteer.”

Both Philpott and Li agree the initiative offers a great learning experience to students.

“Hopefully not too many pandemics of this nature will come along in their careers, so it’s kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity to see what a big public mass vaccination campaign looks like,” Philpott said. “To be part of it is very positive. Despite all the awful things that have been part of the pandemic, the vaccination part is the most positive part that’s happened yet, so everyone’s excited to be part of it.”

Li added the initiative provides students with a way to get involved with the community.

“As a whole, especially with all the virtual learning we’re getting right now, Queen’s medical students are really just enjoying the opportunity to get practical experience with patients and work in-person in professional teams,” he said. “Many medical students would never experience a vaccine campaign to the same scale as this, especially not in their first two years of medical skills.”

“This is such a crucial step in navigating the pandemic. It’s really an honour to be a part of it, and med students have very much enjoyed and look forward to continued involvement as the vaccine rollout increases.”

Li said the initiative is also a way for medical students to give back. 

“As Queen’s students, we like to think that we are part of the community. As Queen’s medical students, we are in Kingston for quite a few years, we do rotations in the community and we get to know the community,” he said. “It’s really our ability to give back to this community that is our home right now, and hopefully build foundations to stay here for the years beyond our training when we’re in practice.”

Philpott also said the medical students’ involvement with the vaccine rollout gives Kingston residents a better chance to get in touch with students who are passionate about helping their community.

“It’s a chance for the community to meet some of these med students,” she said. “It’s really great for the community to see how the students are contributing positively to helping out.”

“I think [this initiative] is just one more example of the strong perseverance of our students, and I’ve been really proud of the way they’ve stepped up to help at any opportunity.”

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