Operation Immunization Offers Opportunities for Students
In a session at APhA2018, the national president of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists, spoke about organizing events, such as a flu vaccine clinic or presentation.
Pharmacists who are interested in getting involved with the educational immunization campaign Operation Immunization have many opportunities to think creatively about getting the public to their events, from marketing to budgeting to following up after the event, according to a speaker at the American Pharmacists Association’s Annual Meeting & Exposition (APhA2018) in Nashville, Tennessee.
In the session, Michael Murphy, national president of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists, who is in his final year at the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, provided background on Operation Immunization, which began in 1997. He also discussed with the students how they can organize immunization events, such as a flu vaccine clinic or presentation.
Operation Immunization is an campaign designed to increase the public’s knowledge of immunizations, while raising the number of adults receiving immunizations.
During its 2016-2017 campaign, 118 student pharmacy chapters, 17,661 student pharmacists, 1716 faculty members, and 1603 pharmacy practitioners participated, 149,500 patients were immunized, 168,521 patients received health and wellness/clinical services, and 5,004,527 patients were reached through patient initiatives.
Murphy said this project is important to him because one of his first opportunities as a student pharmacist was to conduct an immunization clinic by himself for employees of a health system in Ohio. This meant he was administering vaccines to doctors and nurses. He vaccinated a surgeon, who wanted to know what year of medical school Murphy was in and was surprised to learn that he was a pharmacy student.
“He left being a champion of pharmacists,” Murphy said, adding that this kind of event can “put pharmacists out there.’
Murphy asked the students in the audience to say why Operation Immunization is important to them. One student from Texas said that she almost died of pertussis when she was 6 weeks old. Another said that her boss, who died last summer, had made it her goal to immunize everyone in the underserved area of Memphis, Tennessee, in which they worked. This student said she wants to carry on that legacy.
So, where do Operation Immunization chairs start when planning an event?
First, they should start planning weeks or even months ahead of time.
The role of the chair includes knowing where to find resources (check out pharmacist.com, within the student section), organizing events, recruiting volunteers, finding their successors, and implementing reporting throughout the year, rather than just once annually.
Murphy said that the best practices are to plan, budget, promote, recruit, have fun, share, and evaluate.
In terms of planning, it is important to determine what kind of event it will be, what resources are available, the location, the audience, and volunteers.
Murphy told the students that one big challenge of hosting these events is getting volunteers.
“How can we get the best volunteers so we can have the best events?” he asked.
Videos and social media items that tell success stories can be effective, Murphy said, while general body meetings are a good chance to promote an event.
“Utilizing stories and bringing things to an emotional connection level can make a difference,” he said.
Chairs can also consider incentives or a point system for the volunteers’ chapter, Murphy said.
Once getting volunteers on board, make sure that they have the appropriate certification or that they are trained on the presentation that they may be making, he said.
Finally, use volunteers for the first level of feedback about the event, Murphy said.
When budgeting, consider how much is available, submit grants, and reach out to community partners, such as a local pharmacy, library, or elementary school.
To promote an event, use social media, flyers, announcements, public relations outreach, and consider calling a news station to cover the event.
“Local news stations eat this stuff up,” Murphy said. “It paints a positive picture of what the pharmacist is.”
In addition, make sure the event is fun, and then share the success via social media, using stories and photos, though do not take photos of patients.
Finally, evaluate the event, by determining what went well, whether it was cost- and time effective and well-attended, and whether it met the needs of the community, Murphy said.
This is the time to revisit program goals and perhaps involve chapter members and officers in generating ideas.
Murphy said that reports for these events are due June 15, but record-keeping is made much easier if there is a year-round system.
One successful recent event took place at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s partnership with the Vote and Vax campaign, where pharmacy students administered immunizations to people while they were waiting in line to vote.
“That’s an example of going to the people,” Murphy said.
After his presentation, students were broken up into groups to discuss ideas.
1. Murphy M. APhA-ASP Operation Immunization Workshop. Presented at: APHA2018. Nashville, Tennessee; March 16-19, 2018.