School of Pharmacy students fill part-time jobs to administer COVID-19 vaccines
Third-year School of Pharmacy students Brianna Gower and Michaela Myerson were recently hired to work part-time administering COVID-19 vaccines by Guardian Pharmacy, a company that provides specialty pharmacy services and consulting to assisted living, skilled nursing, correctional, and long-term care facilities.
“Once I heard that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved for emergency use, I started looking for any chance I could to vaccinate,” exclaimed Gower. “I was envious of some of my classmates who were starting to vaccinate through their workplace, so I was thrilled when Guardian Pharmacy reached out to our school.”
Myerson added, “I felt it was my responsibility as a health professional to immediately join the effort to end this pandemic when the opportunity arose. The second I heard that COVID-19 vaccines were available, I reached out to multiple organizations to see who would be administering vaccines. Brianna showed me the Guardian position and we decided to apply together.”
The work has taken Myerson and Gower to facilities across the state, from South Berwick to Camden.
“Many of the people Guardian Pharmacy serves are living in communities where they have been required to quarantine with no visits from family for many months on end,” Myerson stated. “It is very meaningful to hear someone say ‘thank you for being here today. This is one step closer to seeing my family.’”
The two students estimate they each have administered more than 500 vaccines to patients, including first and second doses.
“I am so excited and humbled to be part of this piece of history,” Gower said. “It is extremely rewarding to give patients the shot and have them thank me profusely. I recently saw a set of stickers that featured a vial with the phrase ‘I gave a dose of hope’ on it and that is genuinely what it feels like when I give someone the shot.”
One of the clinics they worked at was a drive-thru event in Brunswick that was featured in the Portland Press Herald.
Myerson and Gower say the experience will provide them relevant experience for when they graduate and enter the job market.
“I think working here now while I am a student and getting to know the team at Guardian Pharmacy will give me an advantage in finding a position after I graduate, but this is true of any job in pharmacy,” Gower commented. “The team at Guardian Pharmacy is truly made up of some of the most kind, competent, caring, and intelligent people I've had the pleasure of meeting.”
School of Pharmacy faculty have stepped up to help Guardian Pharmacy’s clinics as well. Emily Dornblaser, Pharm.D., M.S., BCPS, assistant dean for Interprofessional Education and associate professor in the School of Pharmacy; Leslie Ochs, Pharm.D., Ph.D., M.S.P.H. chair and associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration; and George Allen, Pharm.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, have been assisting as volunteers.
“Guardian has been sending us a list of their clinics and welcoming volunteers at any of them,” Dornblaser stated. “I recently provided seven hours of volunteer support and vaccinated approximately 80 individuals.”
Gower and Myerson worked a lot of hours during the winter break, administering vaccines at more than 30 clinics. They are now focused back on their studies for the spring semester, but still work a few hours a week.
They say the work has been extremely fulfilling, and they encourage others to get involved.
“I would like to encourage all students who are certified to vaccinate to get involved in this effort,” Myerson said. “Pharmacies and clinics are almost always under-staffed and will likely be overwhelmed when they see an additional 20-30 patients per day for vaccines. Even a few hours of volunteering make a huge difference.”