In a clinical training for local medical, nursing and athletic training students, participants were unusually enthusiastic about stabbing their partners in the arm.

About 40 aspiring doctors, nurses and athletic trainers Wednesday paired up and practiced administering vaccines by injecting each other with syringes filled with saline — a harmless saltwater solution.

“We’re really enjoying it — it’s a fun thing that we’re able to come and help to be part of the solution,” said first-year medical student Preston Thomas.

The University of Idaho’s WWAMI Medical Education Program hosted the interprofessional training with the help of the North Idaho Area Health Education Center, inviting nursing students from Lewis Clark State College and athletic training students from the UI to participate in the training alongside students in the medical school program.

“We’re training them in administering vaccinations,” said Dustin Worth, clinical medicine coordinator for WWAMI at the UI. “They’re performing injections with saline today so that they are trained and competent should they be asked to help in vaccinations.”

WWAMI is a partnership through the University of Washington’s School of Medicine which works with universities in the Northwest to offer students affordable medical training outside of Washington state. “WWAMI” is an acronym for participating states — Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

While there is no arrangement for students to participate in a coordinated vaccination effort, Worth said WWAMI students, for their part, are placed in clinical care settings in Moscow, Pullman and the Lewis Clark Valley and could conceivably be called upon to administer vaccines in those settings. However, he said they would do so under the supervision of a primary care physician they had been assigned to work with.

Giving someone a shot in the arm may seem like a simple series of motions, said registered nurse Nina Benichou, who helped lead the training, but it is helpful to practice.

“When you get there, yeah you could know all the steps but when you actually do them, it’s a little different,” she said.

Students were also trained to administer epinephrine shots — synthetic adrenaline — in the event that a patient has an allergic reaction to a vaccine.

Worth said while it’s rare, it’s important for those administering vaccines to be mentally and technically ready for adverse reactions.

“Even if it’s not common to have a severe allergic reaction, you have to be prepared for it because you never know when it’s gonna happen,” he said.

With the training, students said they felt they had the opportunity to play a larger part in the conclusion of the pandemic. First-year WWAMI student Aleksei Dingel said as medical students, they don’t have much they can do to directly aid in efforts to combat the pandemic. However, she said, being trained to administer vaccines is one of the few ways they can help with that effort.

William Veloso, who is in his second year with the WWAMI program, agreed, saying it’s also one of many valuable skills medical students must acquire on their way to becoming practicing physicians.

“It’s just another skill to add to the list of stuff that you can keep growing with as you go along,” Veloso said. “Hopefully it’ll be useful because, yeah, it’s a hot topic. Everyone needs one right now.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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