Friday, November 13, 2009

Lessons from my community pharmacy rotation

Posted by Kendra Yum at Friday, November 13, 2009

It’s about developing customer relationships. When customers come into the pharmacy and address the pharmacist and technician on a first-name basis, you know the pharmacist is providing service that keeps customers coming back time after time. The community pharmacy that I now work at has many long-term loyal customers. The pharmacists and technicians are well acquainted with the customers, their families, and their personal stories. No wonder pharmacists continue to rank among the most trusted and accessible health care professionals!

OTC, OTC, OTC. If you have gazed upon the mind-boggling shelves of over-the-counter (OTC) products at a pharmacy, you may have experienced the challenges (or confusion) in finding the right OTC product. Often times, customers will come up to the counter with a question starting with: “What can I take for…?” Or “My 9 month- old son has a fever. Is there anything he can take?” Or “I started getting acid reflux (heartburn) at night. What can I take to alleviate the symptoms?” Or “My wife has a burn on her arm, what can she use to help take away the pain?” This opens up the opportunity for us to ask the patients to describe the symptoms (onset, frequency, trigger, etc.) and to determine whether the condition requires a doctor’s visit, OTC remedy, or non-pharmacological treatments. This rotation has been one of the best refresher course on the appropriate use of over-the-counter products!

The most expensive medications are those that are taken incorrectly… or not at all. Taking medications incorrectly can lead to harmful reactions; and skipping prescribed medications can lead to unnecessary disease progression and complications. I have found that something as simple as going over the directions for taking a new medication (show-and-tell) and explaining a few of the notable side effects is greatly appreciated by patients.

It's about being the patient's advocate. Not long ago, a young gentleman came into the community pharmacy with a Tamiflu prescription for his pregnant wife. He wasn’t sure if he should fill the Tamiflu prescription out of concern of possible side effect on the pregnancy and asked for the pharmacist’s advice. We carefully discussed with him about the pros and cons of taking Tamiflu. We informed him that Tamiflu has a pregnancy category C, but that pregnant women can get sicker than other people who get H1N1 flu. After our talk and a long conversation on the phone with his wife, he told us that felt much better about getting the prescription.

One of the overarching lessons I have learned at my community rotation is that pharmacists are uniquely positioned to provide patients with information on medication use. Our patients look to us to serve as their advocates. It is both a privilege and a responsibility. We are reminded each year during the Oath of a Pharmacist recitation in pharmacy school,
"I promise to devote myself to a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy… with the full realization of the responsibility with which I am entrusted by the public.”

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