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Making Moves: Pharmacists Influencing Patient Decisions Through Motivational Interviewing Techniques - Vaccine Hesitancy

By May Alebraheem posted 01-18-2021 14:20


In these unprecedented times healthcare is facing, pharmacists are presented with great opportunities to impact patient health outcomes in aspects of primary prevention, continuity of care, and more. Our profession allows us to be the most accessible line of direct and effective patient contact to provide care and education. One of the many tools pharmacists and future pharmacists utilize that emphasizes the impact we have on people’s lives is motivational interviewing.

Dr. Bruce Berger, author of Motivational Interviewing for Health Care Professionals: A Sensible Approach, describes that most healthcare professionals tend to use automated responses to empathize and reflect on patient cases. When transitioning into exploring an issue, they find it difficult to do so, and that is when using motivational interviewing is most beneficial. Berger defines motivational interviewing as the patient making sense out of their own disease state, treatment and relationship with their healthcare professional. In addition, he explains that establishing rapport and empathizing with our patients drives them toward making significant changes to manage their illnesses. Because of its focus on the patient as the center of attention, motivational interviewing encourages patients to achieve positive outcomes on their journey to better health by exploring and resolving ambivalence.

I have found motivational interviewing particularly useful when addressing vaccine hesitancy during my clinical rotations. Utilizing motivational interviewing has allowed me to provide patient centered care while educating the patients and exploring their ambivalence regarding the vaccine.  I felt a great sense of pride every time I was able to positively influence my patients through effective communication. In those instances, I noticed that I wanted to take on the listener role even more and remove my feelings regarding the vaccine from the conversation because it was not my decision to make, it was theirs. I was involved in many discussions ranging from concerns about vaccine efficacy to those that believe that COVID and the vaccine are a political ploy designed to control humankind. Reflecting further on their stories, I realized that the conflicting information from social media, government, false advertisements, etc. contributed to their ambivalence, and that these feelings were valid.  I noticed that patients were more satisfied when I utilized motivational interviewing in counseling sessions because they were able to efficiently use their reasoning and the education I provided to make a progressive decision.

At Roosevelt University College of Pharmacy, Dr. Bedrija Nikocevic, Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences, tirelessly contributed her efforts in making a difference in the battle against COVID-19.  Apart from her role as a pharmacist, and faculty teaching the APhA Immunization Certification course and many others, she volunteers Mount Sinai Hospital by assisting with the preparation and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Nikocevic also recently presented at Illinois Pharmacist Association to educate on COVID vaccine hesitancy sharing real life patient scenarios and talk about her own experience. Proactive efforts like Dr. Nikocevic’s and many more motivate me to keep these conversations open and continuously advocate for our profession.

~~Feel free to use this as an open forum to share personal experience and stories of patient interactions that MI made a difference in!  

May Alebraheem
Pharm.D Candidate 2021
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