Education and support inspire trust between patients and pharmacists.
As members of the health care profession, pharmacists have the privilege to help patients receive vital medical services as part of our daily jobs. Even as student pharmacists, we can practice and assist in this role by recognizing our power as patient and pharmacy advocates. By advocating, we can help patients navigate a confusing health care world while educating them on the role that pharmacists play in that care. Advocating for patients will also help us earn their trust, which is essential for all health care providers.
By embracing our role as patient advocates and allowing that mission to guide our actions, we can become good representatives of the profession and help patients get the best possible care. The first step towards helping patients is to gain their trust. If we take the time to show them how we can assist, patients will learn to appreciate the services that pharmacists provide to help them remain healthy.
Education is a key component in every single patient interaction. As pharmacy students, we possess considerable knowledge to answer common questions patients may have. These include recommending OTC products for common medical conditions, answering insurance coverage questions, performing medication administration demonstrations, providing safe storage information, and administering vaccinations. You can even be on the lookout for customers wandering the OTC aisles and offer to help them identify and locate an appropriate product.
Education is also crucial to ensure patients understand what they are taking the medications for and why they are important. Patients often discontinue their medications because of a lack of understanding, which results in poor control of the disease state and adverse medical outcomes. By giving patients the necessary information to manage their therapy safely, pharmacists and pharmacy students are fulfilling their roles as patient and pharmacy advocates.
One of the main reasons patients discontinue important medications is because of cost,1 and helping patients afford their medications is another significant way to make a positive impact. By assisting patients with locating manufacturer coupons or discount cards, pharmacy students can play a crucial role in making sure they take their prescribed medication and helping them avoid worsening medical conditions. You can also recommend alternatives that may be more affordable, such as a different medication in the same therapeutic class. By going the extra mile for patients who need expensive drugs or those without insurance coverage, you are helping patients continue their medication therapy and live healthier lives while earning their appreciation and trust.
Pharmacy students should also be on the lookout for patient populations who may need extra advocacy, such as older patients or non-English speakers. By utilizing the services of an interpreter and checking patients’ understanding, you can ensure they have the necessary information and tools to navigate the confusing health care landscape.
Pharmacy students can also earn patients’ trust by being honest and not overpromising. Offer realistic estimates of how long things will take and when prescriptions or other services will be ready. Explain to patients that it is beneficial for them to fill all their prescriptions at 1 pharmacy so that pharmacy staff can appropriately screen for interactions and other duplications and ensure safe medication usage.
Most importantly, talk to patients! Assure them you are an available resource for all medication-related questions, including those about new medications seen in TV ads. With regard to COVID-19 and frequently changing guidelines, let them know pharmacies are equipped with the latest information and can guide them toward the best options.
In addition to speaking with patients, effective listening is another important job for a patient advocate. To best understand patient concerns and address them, you must first listen to their perspective and gain an understanding of the issues before you can help solve them.
As pharmacy students, we are well placed to assist patients with numerous issues related to medication and health care. This includes educating patients on important information and explaining how you can help with their medications. Being a patient advocate is also a way to earn patients’ trust and ensure they get the best possible care, helping you live up to the ideals and standards of a medical professional. When patients see you going out of your way to assist them, they gain an appreciation for our services and the important job pharmacists play in ensuring safe medication usage. By embracing your role as a patient and pharmacy advocate, you can best represent the profession and fulfill your responsibilities as a key member of the health care team.
About the Author
Esther Banker is a 2024 PharmD candidate at Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Health Professions in Omaha, Nebraska, and a pharmacy intern at Jewel Osco Pharmacy.
1. LeWine HE. Millions of adults skip medication due to their high cost. Harvard Health Publishing. January 30, 2015. Accessed September 6, 2022. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/millions-skip-medications-due-totheir-high-cost-201501307673