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Queen’s medical students helping with Kingston’s vaccination rollout

More than 200 of Queen’s medical students have answered the call for assistance and have begun volunteering with Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

Queen's medical student Tania Yavorska prepares to vaccinate a patient
Queen's medical student Tania Yavorska prepares to vaccinate a patient at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (Photo by Matthew Manor / KHSC)

Canada’s vaccination rollout is picking up across the country and within the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington region. This rapidly increasing rollout has sparked the beginning of the largest immunization campaign in Canadian history, and in order for it to run smoothly healthcare professionals across the country are being called upon to administer the delivery. As Kingston has begun to receive an increasing supply of the vaccine over the last several weeks, more than 200 of Queen’s medical students have answered the call for assistance and have begun volunteering with Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC). Every day the site, which is primarily staffed by these students, vaccinates hundreds of frontline workers, health care professionals, and senior community members. 

Tony Li, who is in his second year of medical school and is president of the Aesculapian Society, has been involved with the vaccination rollout for the last three weeks. The opportunity was borne from a medical school graduate who approached Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Jane Philpott asking for assistance.  

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, students in the Faculty of Health Sciences have been looking for ways to support the community, and they have led many fantastic initiatives. A few weeks ago, a QMed grad, Dr. Elaine Ma, reached out to ask if the medical students would be available to help support with the rollout,” says Dean Philpott. “Our students are so eager to contribute, I was not surprised when I reached out to the Aesculapian Society and received a resounding ‘yes!’”  

Initially upper-year medical students were engaged in the vaccination clinic, but the campaign grew so quickly that all four years of medical students have had the opportunity to be involved. 

Each day at KHSC there are two four-hour shifts where medical students take part in all aspects of the vaccination process. This includes screening patients, tracking information, administering the vaccine and monitoring for adverse effects. Li describes the process as an assembly line and notes how impressed he is with its efficiency. 

“It’s a non-stop process and the four hours just fly by,” he says. “Each medical student can administer upwards of 40 to 80 vaccines in a single shift.” 

Right now, Li and his classmates are vaccinating healthcare workers, but moving forward, as the KFL&A region looks to expand its community rollout, Queen’s students will play a critical role in serving the wider community.

The School of Nursing has already created a unique placement which has allowed a student to be involved in the rollout in long-term care facilities in Kingston. Various teams, including upper-year nursing and medical students, have also been involved in the delivery of the vaccinations to priority communities, many located in the geographic north, through the Operation Remote Immunity initiative. 

As the rollout ramps up, so will the ways in which students from across health professional programs in the Faculty of Health Sciences participate. 

“I’ve been working with KFL&A Public Health,” Li says. “We built scenarios for the community rollout of a vaccine and worked out various roles for medical students, nursing students and other healthcare professionals in the faculty so that we can do our part to assist with the vaccination distribution and implementation plan. It’s exciting to know that our involvement can continue to grow.” 

While participating in the administration of the immunization campaign has served a functional role for the hospitals and community members, this experience has also provided an excellent learning opportunity for those involved. In addition to developing technical skills, the students are also practicing interacting with patients and to working effectively on inter-professional teams.  

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most people would go through medical school without having the experience of administering vaccines at a large-scale like we have,” Li says. “In just a few days, each medical student has already given over 100 vaccines. This will now be something that we will all be comfortable with moving forward in our training. On top of that we’re strengthening valuable clinical skills such as how to approach patients and communicate with them. There are so many benefits all around, and we’re all just so proud to be a part of it and give back to the community.”