Educating the Public on What Pharmacists do IS Part of Providing Healthcare

By Angela Goodhart posted 10-27-2015 16:39



Educating the Public on What Pharmacists do IS Part of Providing Healthcare

Contributed by Danielle Beltz & Angela Goodhart, Northeast Ohio Medical University

Coming this Fall, a new trio of medical drama:  Chicago Hope the Pharmacy Edition, ER Pharmacist, and Dipiro’s Pharmacotherapy effect on Grey’s Anatomy.

While it would be nice, there are no ‘Adventures in Pharmacy’ television shows currently under development.   Since Shonda Rhimes isn’t taking up the cause, it falls on pharmacists and student pharmacists to educate the public on what we as pharmacists bring to the healthcare team.

Our patients won’t know to request access to pharmacist care until they fully understand that our value transcends counting by fives. Much evidence supports that pharmacist involvement in direct patient care improves patient outcomes.   Unfortunately, this scientific literature is not easily translatable to the the general public.

Patients need to know that pharmacists continue to ensure safe dispensing of appropriate medications. It is everything else that we bring to table that many do not yet understand.

To this end, our Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists (SSHP) developed a booth to be included at each health fair in which we participate entitled “What can pharmacists do for you?”

The inspiration for our poster came from the realization that we as pharmacists and student pharmacists don’t always market ourselves well.  People tend think of the pharmacist as the person behind the counter taking pills from big bottles and putting them in small bottles.  Just ask your family and friends what they think you do as a student pharmacist.  That’s exactly where we started with this project: engaging our families and friends from outside the world of pharmacy in a discussion about what they believe pharmacists do.  The answers were comical, but also disappointing.  Many apologetically told us they know we must be doing more than counting pills, but they they really weren’t sure what else we’re doing.   Even other healthcare professionals will commonly think of  pharmacists checking for drug interactions and answering drug information questions, but often they don’t think of the roles we play in smoking cessation, administering vaccinations, promoting adherence, and managing chronic disease states.  

This feedback led to the creation of our poster featuring 12 roles a pharmacist plays in healthcare and explicitly naming pharmacists the medication experts.  We handed out a corresponding brochure for visitors to take with them when they left.  We hope they can continue the conversation about pharmacist care with their families and maybe even their healthcare providers.  We also had tea and Lifesavers mints to give out (because pharmacists provide qualiTEA care and save lives).

Our booth was well received, with many people expressing surprise at the vast scope of pharmacy practice.  Some even stopped and pointed to things on our poster to ask, “really? the pharmacist does this?”  One man read about pharmacists ensuring the medication is right for a patient based medical conditions and lifestyle and asked “does this always happen?  Is my pharmacist checking to make sure my medications are OK for me?” We were happy to assure him that yes, our job as pharmacists includes checking that a particular medication is the best option for each of our patients.  He was floored!

It is our belief that educating the public on what pharmacist care is and how it can impact them is just as important as brown bag medication reviews, interactions checks, blood pressure and blood sugar clinics.  These services and education as to the value of pharmacists care should be provided side by side as part of an integrated care experience.

So we ask, what do you think?  Whose job is it to educate the public on what pharmacists do?

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10-28-2015 16:17

You all did a fantastic job of compiling this information and should be very proud of yourselves!! The poster is attention grabbing, professional, easy to read, and concise. One that I think would be well-received by ASHP student organizations at pharmacy schools during health fairs, as well as during "legislative days" to help inform our elected officials. I hope this is picked up by many student organizations and one that I think would be well-received at a Midyear too.

10-28-2015 11:42

What a call to action! The poster is terrific and I love the energy and excitement that you are bringing to our profession. We definitely need to advocate for ourselves. Thank you for this reminder!