Today University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff was the second stop for our February 2016 Tour. My favorite part of the tour is introducing the field of pharmacy to all the students. I’ve come to realize during these past two stops that many students aren’t fully aware of what pharmacy is, what pharmacists do, and how do pharmacists fit into healthcare. It’s a common misconception that pharmacists count pills all day, every day. Whenever the word pharmacy comes to mind, the average person would likely think of their neighborhood pharmacy. The reality is pharmacy has grown to be a profession so much more than just filling prescriptions. I enjoy informing students during the T4D workshops of all the different ways pharmacist can be part of the healthcare team. For example, pharmacists can work in hospitals, attend rounds with the healthcare team, and monitor various clinical lab values in regards to the patient’s disease state and/or medication regimen. A few non-traditional pharmacy careers include working for health insurance companies, the DEA, and the FDA. These are components of healthcare that don’t typically come to mind when we think of pharmacy and the pharmacist’s role in healthcare.
I also enjoy talking with the students about the importance of patient-centered care relative to pharmacy. Pharmacists are on the front-line in terms of medication adherence, disease management, and lifestyle modifications. We see patients in the retail setting multiple times a week to drop off, refill, and pick up prescriptions so we have the opportunity to build close, personal, and trusting relationships with our patients. Patients put a lot of trust in their pharmacists to ensure their medications are safe, effective, and necessary.
Patient-centered care also correlates to the importance of having more diversity amongst pharmacists. Many patients feel more comfortable asking questions, asking for recommendations, and listening to someone that can relate to their daily struggles, lifestyle, and situations. Increasing the minority amongst pharmacists is vital and would increase the access to healthcare for many underserved populations. I currently work in the retail pharmacy setting, and I have encountered countless situations in which an African-American, Latino, Middle Eastern, or European waits at the pharmacy and asks specifically for me to recommend an over-the-counter product, ask a question about a new medication, or teach him or her how to use their blood glucose monitor. The reason they are waiting to talk to me isn’t because they think I am smarter or better than the other pharmacy staff. They are waiting to talk to me because I am also a person of color and they feel more comfortable asking me. The majority of underserved populations in healthcare are African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native-American, so it is essential we diversify medicine so these patients have better care, better access, and better outcomes.