Feinberg medical students attend a COVID-19 vaccination training session at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Image courtesy of Leah Fanning, MSN, RNC-OB.

Student Volunteers Administer Vaccines

by Melissa Rohman

Beginning in March, Feinberg offered students the opportunity to volunteer in Northwestern Medicine’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, helping  to administer vaccines to patients at Northwestern Medicine healthcare sites across Chicago.

“There is no doubt that Feinberg students have played critical roles during this pandemic, from COVID-19 outreach to obtaining PPE and now to vaccination. It is always exciting and gratifying to find opportunities where the health system and the medical education programs can work together to improve the care of patients. We are very fortunate to have an outstanding collaboration with our clinical partners,” said Marianne Green, MD, the Raymond H. Curry, MD, Professor of Medical Education and vice dean for education.

Alan Soetikno, a first-year medical student, practices administering vaccine with NMH staff during a vaccination training session at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Image courtesy of Leah Fanning, MSN, RNC-OB.

“The COVID-19 vaccination efforts have been an incredible joint effort between Northwestern Medicine and the Feinberg School of Medicine. The response from our students has been overwhelming, and we are so impressed that over 100 students took time out of their busy schedules to train to be vaccinators.  We look forward to incorporating more members of the Feinberg community in future efforts and our students dedication to patients and the community is truly unparalleled,” said Susan Goldsmith, MD, ’08 GME, associate dean for student affairs.

Student volunteers attended vaccination training sessions coordinated by Feinberg leadership and Northwestern Memorial Hospital staff, preparing them for the vaccination efforts. Prior to training, they were required to review vaccination modules from the CDC. Training sessions lasted 90 minutes and 25 students were trained at a time, while adhering to social distancing guidelines. NMH nurses assisted students with the training, beginning with a video presentation covering information about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, informed consent, documenting patient information in the electronic medical record, and how to safely administer an intramuscular injection using specialized retractable needles used for vaccination.

Following the presentation, students practiced inputting patient information in Epic’s electronic medical record system and went through a one-one-one skills validation tests with NMH nurses to evaluate needle safety and vaccination technique. Lastly, students were required to shadow a nurse as they administered vaccinations and administered vaccinations on their own under close supervision.

“All of my friends know that I love vaccines; they even send me pictures when they get their flu shots. So that being said, I was very excited when Feinberg announced that medical students were going to be trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines,” said Casey Benzaken, a first-year student in the MD/MPH Program and student volunteer for Northwestern Medicine’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Benzaken’s research interests in public health and vaccines motivated her to join the effort.  Currently, she is collaborating with Feinberg faculty to study perceptions about flu vaccines and to develop more convenient settings to receive the vaccine. She said having the opportunity to practice administering injections with retractable needles and charting patient information in EPIC, both of which she has never done before, helped her feel confident in administering vaccines to patients.

“Participating in the vaccine efforts has honestly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” she said.