by Jennifer Scovell
I decided on the profession of pharmacist when I was in high school. I liked the health care field but I didn’t think I could handle the “yucky stuff” involved in nursing, or the very long academic career of a physician, but pharmacy seemed like it could work. I was good at math, science, and communicating with people so I thought I would give it a shot (no pun intended). The more I learned about the pharmacy profession, the more I fell in love with it. I am very fortunate to still feel this way over 8 years later and I hope my passion only grows in the future.
I did not know that pharmacists were giving immunizations when I first started thinking about pharmacy as a career. And that’s a good thing, if I did I probably would have listed that under my “yucky stuff” category and ruled it out as a future job. When I did learn of the immunizing pharmacists, I wondered if I would be able to handle it. I, like many people, am not very fond of needles. Honestly, I don’t know of anyone who LOVES getting vaccines but I avoided the flu shot every year and the topic produced a great deal of anxiety for me.
So, when the time finally came to start my immunization training at the end of my first year of pharmacy school, I was nervous, to say the least. Our skills lab for vaccine administration came after our live lecture and self-study modules on immunization training. And the best part… as students, we had to practice giving injections on each other! This meant that not only did we have to get (and give) a couple of injections in two different sites, we KNEW that the other person had never done it before! “Exposure therapy” can be used in certain anxiety disorders or phobia disorders and I would classify this experience as such. It was my own personal “Fear Factor” episode and guess what… IT WORKED! While vaccines are still not my favorite thing to receive, I do not get anxious and I certainly do not avoid them. Just this last weekend I received my first dose of Havrix (Hepatitis A vaccine) from my local pharmacist.
Immunizing is now one of my favorite activities when interning at community pharmacies or volunteering at outreach immunization clinics. It is a great opportunity to have one-on-one time with patients to answer their questions and talk about their health. Working and volunteering at different sites with pharmacists and nurses has given me the opportunity to improve my immunization technique and learn best practices. With each vaccine I administer, I have the chance to promote immunization as the best way to protect the public from certain diseases, like the flu. As a pharmacy intern at the Oregon Health Authority Immunization Program, I have seen the passion and dedication of the people in this program and I hope that I can help strengthen the relationship between the Oregon Immunization Program and all immunizing pharmacists.
Editor’s Note: Jennifer’s last day as an intern at the Oregon Immunization Program is on Friday. She has been a fantastic addition to the team, and we will miss her!