Free Clinic Student Perspective: Alexis & Ben
August 31, 2021
This past month the Clinic was blessed with two pharmacy students that were riddled with trepidation upon entering our doors. Neither Alexis, from Ohio Northern University, or Ben, from Cedarville University, knew what a month at a free clinic would entail. Nevertheless, they jumped in and welcomed the education! They also were kind enough to share their Perspective, of 30-days at Health Partners Free Clinic:
My time at Health Partners Free Clinic brought about passion for the pharmacy profession that I had not yet experienced. Throughout the month I not only learned more about the drug dispensing process and patient counseling, but I learned how to establish a bond with patients. This bond was able to impact both me and the patients. For me, I learned that health care is often taken for granted and that there are limits to what we can do to help patients. However, we can still have an impact on how they view the healthcare system. Building a bond with the patients allowed them to trust the system just a little more than they did before they came in.
A particularly impactful patient for me was just as new to the clinic as I was. She arrived at the beginning of the month and I observed her care throughout. When she came in, she hadn’t been able to see and needed help filling out her paperwork. I was asked to read the forms to her and was shocked when she poured out her story for me to hear. I could tell that she was ashamed to have to resort to a free clinic, but I tried to make her understand that there was no shame in needing help. She was working multiple jobs, and trying to take care of a child that wasn’t hers. She was trying to keep her family afloat but was falling apart because she could not afford her medications. I was hoping that reinitiating her medications would fix her health issues and that our one encounter would have a large positive impact on her quality of life. By our second encounter, I realized I was very wrong. I listened to her tell me of multiple hospitalizations, falls, and worsening health conditions. I was heartbroken to see her walk in barely standing as she used a walking stick. Her face had shown the evidence of her falls. Based on her hospital visits, I realized that the health system had failed her again.
By her third encounter at the clinic, I realized I was protective of the patient like she was my own mother and I was willing to get in my car and buy her what she needed. Obviously, this was a line that I could not cross, but I was able to help her with her medication regimen and get her the resources she needed through the correct channels. She hugged me that day and when she left I realized that I had given her the attention and the empathy that she needed to keep going, even if I couldn’t fix all of her problems.
In addition to building bonds and empathy for patients, I learned how strong a healthcare team can be. In many patient care establishments, it is clear that there is low trust between practitioners. Whether it be not valuing the role of a practitioner, or just typical office gossip, unhealthy relationships between healthcare professionals can be detrimental to patient care. This is not the case for Health Partners Free Clinic. The staff of the clinic is so much of a family that I am confident they would each take a bullet for each other. The pharmacists and nurse practitioners at the clinic have more respect for each other than I have ever seen between healthcare workers. The nurse practitioners are always asking the pharmacists and pharmacy interns for advice on various medications, and the pharmacists value the rationales of the nurse practitioner’s diagnosis. The nurse practitioners and pharmacists will often have a huddle next to the medication room to decide the best course of action for each patient, particularly focused on social determinants of health.
For the first time in my pharmacy journey, I looked forward to going to work each day. I looked forward to seeing my colleagues and hearing the stories of various patients. I looked forward to helping someone use their new inhaler and to answering the questions of the nurse practitioners. I looked forward to the other pharmacists challenging me and teaching me their ways. I am hoping that someday, I will be able to work in an environment where I feel challenged each day as well as safe with a tightly knit family of colleagues.
Spending time and working at the Troy Health Partners Free Clinic opened my eyes to the social injustices that perpetuate our fallen world. There are many social determinants of health that come into play for different levels of patient care for Miami County residents. The clinic provides a safety net to help people get on their feet and in some cases allow them to finally walk again. The staff and medical personnel do a stand up job promoting ways to live a healthy lifestyle by smoking cessation, providing fresh fruits and vegetables, or providing ways to access transportation and help with the process of navigating a broken healthcare system.
I did not know how my rotation would start or end when I got to the clinic. Everyday was a new educational experience I will keep in my back pocket to provide care during my future rotations. The health care team provides an all in one package for the patient, but we like to address them by their first name. Free medical care, medications, and follow up appointments are distributed to each person according to what type of medical care they need. Social workers and staff are available to answer any questions about the patient’s health and also contact other specialties if something can not be addressed at the clinic.
The staff and medical personnel are the heart and soul of the organization. Without their tireless ability and compassion, this organization would not be the well oiled machine that it is today. The staff knows a majority of the patients on a first name basis and knows most of them from seeing them in the community at several outreach events they host every month. The events that they have put on during my time here have included glucose and blood pressure screenings at a community center, as well as the weekly dining with diabetes program put in conjuction with the senior center. A lot of knowledge is lost in translation at the doctor’s office, so the staff at Troy Health Partners Free Clinic use their gift to interact with the community to talk about certain disease states like diabetes and high blood pressure. If we can do the heavy lifting now with education about lifestyle changes and using medications when warranted, we can avoid the disastrous effects of uncontrolled chronic disease states in the future.
This rotation allowed me to be more confident and that the traditional role of staying inside the pharmacy should be thrown to the wayside. Pharmacists, when given the opportunity, like I was given at the free clinic, can work side by side with nurse practitioners, and volunteer
nurses to provide hands-on medical care. Pharmaceutical interventions can be played out in real time when working on the front lines in healthcare at a clinic. The ability to talk through a patient’s chart with fellow healthcare team members is a priceless ability that is gained at this
type of healthcare setting. Pharmacists are not stuck in their traditional silos of healthcare, but instead the barrier has been knocked down between healthcare providers which in turn can lead to better patient outcomes, less medical errors, and overall job satisfaction.
A big thank you to the staff for all the hospitality, and the education you provided me and the room to grow as a human being, as well as demonstrating the need for more compassion for our patients that walk through your doors.