Responding to an urgent community health need
WSU student pharmacists are ready to test students when they return from holiday break.
In early September, just after fall semester began virtually at Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the main WSU campus in Pullman experienced a dramatic increase in the number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19. The WSU APhA–ASP Chapter was called on to participate in providing COVID-19 testing for undergraduate students, faculty, and staff. Over one weekend, Chapter Patient Care Vice-President Shayne Fontes and I collaborated to help organize a group of student pharmacists to perform testing over a 3-day period.
At this time, Pullman was recognized as having the fastest-growing number of COVID–19 cases in the country per population size, and hundreds of students were confirmed to be positive in just 2 weeks despite efforts to socially distance while the majority of classes were held virtually. With the help of our Chapter Advisor Jennifer Robinson, PharmD, chapter members collaborated with WSU’s colleges of medicine, nursing, and health services to test 573 students and provide more than $70,000 worth of health care for our fellow Cougars. The tests were offered free through a drive-through testing site next to the university president’s home in the heart of campus.
Demonstrating our value
We were excited to practice skills learned in class, namely nasopharyngeal swabbing, and the opportunity to support our community during this difficult time. With access to the president’s house, student volunteers could easily attend classes virtually and provide care when they were available. Volunteers screened individuals for symptoms and recent exposure, many of whom reported a minimum of one known exposure in the last few days. It was rewarding to ease the tensions of students who were either anxious about the testing process itself or the possibility of testing positive. By providing this service, we showed the value of student pharmacist–provided clinical point-of-care services. Although there were risks of exposure, student volunteers were given ample training and personal protective equipment: N-95 masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves.
We are grateful to have played a pivotal role in serving the needs of an underserved rural community during the pandemic. Through interprofessional collaboration, we have strengthened relationships with other health care disciplines and witnessed firsthand the importance of collective interprofessional efforts.
As the spring semester begins, our chapter is ready for 5 days of testing for undergraduate students, faculty, and staff returning from the holiday break so that they may safely reintegrate into the rural campus and community. This is the chapter’s way of following APhA–ASP President Sydney Tu’s theme, “Carpe Momentum: Seize OUR Moment!”
Misty Lefler is a third-year PharmD candidate at Washington State University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.