Student Perspective: Abby and Erin
September 30, 2019
The month of September brought the Clinic not one but two pharmacy externs! Erin from Ohio Northern University and Abby from Cedarville University, spent the last 30 days testing their clinical skills out on our unique patient population. They were tasked with seeing the humanity in healthcare and getting back to the roots of medicine. Both these young students will leave the Clinic having had experiences very specific to their Perspective and they were kind enough to share that with us:
After working in free clinics while attending a mission trip to Clarkston, Georgia back in March, I knew that I had to have a rotation at Health Partners Free Clinic! From a student perspective, working as a student pharmacist in free clinic settings really gives you an opportunity to improve your clinical pharmacy skills (as you typically have a limited formulary), practice your patient work-up skills, as well as gain experience as part of an interprofessional team. From a non-student perspective, it gives you the opportunity to help those in need and show love to people that may feel unloved/forgotten by everyone else.
Prior to my mission trip, I hadn’t had any free clinic exposure. So I didn’t really know what to expect. One of the clinics in Clarkston that I worked in was an old house that had been turned into a “clinic” a few years back. It still looked more like a house, but the volunteers were providing quality care. Another, was just starting up in an old clinic building, and I actually got to help them set up their medication room! It was a little cramped and still needed to be renovated some, but once again, volunteers were providing quality care. So, imagine my surprise when I got to Health Partners and their office is nicer than some of the family practice offices I’ve been in! The goal was to have the office reflect the quality of care they provide and they hit the nail right on the head.
I think there is still a lot of stigma around free health clinics. Negative perceptions of the people, the care being provided, and those who are providing the care are often floating around. But I also believe that there are a lot of misconceptions around free health clinics. Medical professionals are volunteering, the offices can be really nice and money doesn’t stand in the way of providing optimal care for the patient. And the reality is, everyone struggles from time to time whether it be financially or in another way, there’s nothing wrong with seeking some assistance.
What separates Health Partners from most free clinics, is that the team here is focused on chronic situations rather than acute. We’re treating patients and then following them along their journey both in their health and overall life. We do our best to help those in need and give them the tools they need to help themselves in the future. And the coolest thing, is that you can help too! One of my biggest takeaways from working in free clinics both in Clarkston and at Health Partners, is that you don’t have to go far to help those in need. When was the last time you checked in on a neighbor? Coworker? Friend from school? These are the people that need your help, and these are the people that comprise both our clinic staff and patient population.
So whether you want to volunteer or are thinking about becoming a patient here, I 10/10 would recommend. It’s been a tremendous blessing to be a part of the team this month. It’s a wonderful environment and you can tell that everyone that volunteers/staffs here, genuinely has a heart to serve. They’re using their skills that they’ve went to school for/practiced for years to help anyone and everyone they can.
During my month at Health Partners, I have learned so much more about how to practice pharmacy, but even more about patients and their experiences. I came into the clinic not knowing what to expect or what I would experience. As I started, I knew this would be a unique rotation, since I was able to directly participate in patient care by working with the nurse practitioners and nurses every day in the clinic. I could help decide how to treat a patient and then immediately educate the patient on their medications.
This month gave me a new perspective on how going forward I will approach and treat patients. I was able to talk to patients, hear their story, and make sure the medication they were taking worked for their life. I learned more about their lives and current situation and that their concerns went beyond medicine. It was a good reminder that patients should not be treated by their disease, but by looking at the whole picture. For example, talking with a patient who works 12-hour night shifts, it can be difficult for them to take their medications on a regular schedule or try to eat healthy meals when they don’t have time for more than something from the vending machine. In that case, it is important that I tailor a diet plan and education to the food and time available and not based on a standard guideline. During school, I have learned the principles behind treating patients, but it can never really teach you how to apply this to real patients, as my time in the clinic has.
Having a chance to go to the local soup kitchen was another experience that made me realize how much I take for granted. The people I saw and interacted with are often not that different from me and have just not had the same opportunities. There are people who are trying to take care of their health, but may not have the means to do it. It has inspired me to want to volunteer and help out in any way I can going forward because everyone deserves to have the same level of care and attention. I was also surrounded by the clinic staff who care very deeply about improving the lives of the people they meet, which gave me a model to follow.
Overall, my time at HPFC has definitely given me skills that will carry over to my other rotations and future career. I have learned more about how to talk to patients and discuss their medications in an understandable way, while also considering what else I can do to help them. I have discovered how many resources there are available for patients, varying from which medications they can get for free to dental services and food options. In the future, I hope to keep myself informed of these resources to make my future patients aware of them, so they can get the help they may need. This experience has definitely made an impact on me that I will never forget.