Free Clinic Student Perspective: Monica

March 30, 2021

Health Partners Free Clinic is a great place for students to pick up skill sets that they otherwise would not in their typical experiential rotations. However, Monica, our pharmacy extern for the month of March, has chosen a different path than the typical student.  She strategically chose to come here to prepare herself for a year-long residency at a charitable pharmacy, beginning this Summer.  Monica gained some incredible insights while with us and she is kind enough to share those experiences in this month’s Student Perspective:

Being involved with Health Partners this month has been the most fulfilling and rewarding experience of all my clinical pharmacy rotations. I was excited to experience ambulatory care pharmacy and seeing what Health Partners Free Clinic has to offer. Growing up in a small rural community, I thought I understood the hardships patients may face with healthcare – let’s just say I was wrong!

Each day would provide me the opportunity to grow in my clinical skills and collaborate with the nurse practitioners and their students. I was able to perform various point-of-care testing (blood sugar, A1c, PT/INR, etc) and provide medication reviews with patients. Health Partners provides a unique environment that allows both pharmacy and nurse practitioner students the capabilities to work together on treatment plans for patients. The nurse practitioners also value the input pharmacy students can provide. I enjoyed being challenged clinically and adding value to the heath team.

While expanding drug and disease knowledge is the main objective of every clinical rotation pharmacy students are a part of, my experience at Health Partners provided me with so much more. Optimizing a patient’s health is more than just having access to healthcare services and medications. Like a puzzle, there are many aspects of a patient’s story that can affect health outcomes. These pieces can include access to food, housing, or transportation. Other social determinants of health – health literacy, income, and support – can also affect this puzzle.

As I interacted with patients, I have learned that we must understand and empathize with each patient to understand their story, their puzzle. Being “health professionals” can lead to the habit of only looking at the disease state and lab values. We must strip our titles and positions to our most basic form: human. By interacting with patients with this openness and ability to listen, we can best understand their needs. How is your access to food? Do you have support at home? Once I got use to these raw conversations, I could then use my creative thinking to find ways to educate patients and provide solutions to different health barriers.

Reflecting on this past month, I will never forget the simple things we can do to help our patients. I had the opportunity to help a patient, who did not speak English, fill out new patient forms with the help of a translator. When their visit at Health Partners was over, the patient turned to me with the biggest smile on their face and expressed their gratitude. Leading healthcare with kindness and compassion is bound to changes lives for the better and everyone at Health Partners embodies this mindset.

While I did not want my time at Health Partners to end, I have learned many valuable lessons that I can use not only as a pharmacist, but as a person too! It can be easy to get swept up in the details of healthcare, but how we treat others is what life it all about. I am beyond excited to take my experiences and continue to break patient barriers as I begin my career as a pharmacist in just a few short months. I am forever blessed for all the memories and lessons I have gained from everyone at Health Partners!