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UMKC pharmacy students do their part to immunize Missouri against influenza

Tis the season for colds and flu. And this fall, UMKC School of Pharmacy students were again busy battling the bug.

Third-year pharmacy students participate each year in a pharmacy practice experience that includes learning to administer immunizations. This year, that experience involved administering 2,676 flu shots to patients at 59 immunization events throughout Missouri.

This is the eighth year the School of Pharmacy has been part of the flu shot initiative. It started in 2011 as a collaborative effort with the University’s Healthy for Life wellness program to administer the shots to faculty and staff.

“We have enjoyed an excellent collaboration with Healthy for Life,” said Val Ruehter, Pharm.D., BCPP, director of experiential learning. “In Kansas City, we also collaborate with Children’s Mercy Hospital, where we participated in flu shot clinics for its ‘Family and Friends’ program.”

The collaborations expanded this year in Kansas City to include Hy-Vee Pharmacies, where students assisted with in-store clinics. In addition, immunization events were held at the John Knox Village retirement community.

Students at the Springfield campus collaborated with Alps Pharmacies and its locations in local businesses, and senior assisted living and nursing care centers; and Walgreen’s and its locations in local businesses, schools, and veterans and homeless charities. Clinics were also held at both Lawrence Drug and Sunshine Health Mart for patients at these pharmacies.

Students from all three UMKC School of Pharmacy campuses participated. In Kansas City, students participated in 14 immunization events and administered 1,453 flu shots. Springfield campus students participated in 44 events and gave 930 shots. And students from the Columbia campus administered 293 immunizations.

“These collaborations engage students in a variety of activities and allow us to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and impact that pharmacists can have on community health and wellness,” Ruehter said. “Our students were well-prepared, engaged and represented themselves as knowledgeable health care professionals.”

All vaccines are administered by students are given under required protocol with oversight by a physician. Certified immunizer faculty members take the lead in managing the protocol and supervising the student training and immunization events.

The regional American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists organization honored the UMKC School of Pharmacy earlier this year with an Operation Immunization chapter award. It recognized the extraordinary contributions pharmacists provide to improving vaccination rates in their communities. The UMKC chapter received the national recognition in 2012, as well.