Student Perspective: Brendan

June 30, 2016

Our pharmacy externs come to the Clinic with all sorts of back grounds.  We here at Health Partners certainly appreciate the variety and unique viewpoints that come with these students, and Brendan, our extern for the month of June, was no exception.  A multi-talented young man with a passion for patient care, Brendan spent the month pouring over patient charts in search of statistics that will forever change to way we track our antibiotic prescribing.  Please take a moment to read his unique Student Perspective from the month of June:   

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I had very little idea of what to expect for my first pharmacy rotation. About all I could have said a month ago is that I would be practicing ambulatory care. But that changed from the moment I walked in the doors here at Health Partners Free Clinic. While I was aware of the concept of a free clinic, I never had exposure to one, let alone understood the scope and importance of such facilities. On my first day I realized just how important these clinics are, and the significant impact they have on the surrounding community. The clinic’s mission statement is “to provide access to free quality health care for uninsured and underserved residents of Miami County.” In 2015, Health Partners saw over 900 patients, resulting in over 3,000 visits, and over 1.8 million dollars in total medical services. Health Partners does not charge for any of their services. The clinic does this without any support from the state or federal government; relying entirely on the community to continue operations each year.

I quickly came to appreciate the unique environment at Health Partners. The building, a decade old, is as nice and well-equipped as any doctor’s office. Almost everyone here volunteers their time and skill to provide the best care possible for our patients. One aspect I’ve really appreciated this month is how inclusive and collaborative this environment is. There are not many practices where each member of the healthcare team spends the whole day together in essentially the same room, taking care of each patient in turn. Office staff, medical assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, social workers, and of course pharmacists, all working together. As a student, this is a highly valuable experience. At least once a day, I was right there with the nurse practitioner solving a problem or coming up with an alternative option in order to work with the supplies and medications on hand. I also had numerous opportunities each day to see patients during their appointments. During these visits, I counseled patients on topics including: medication adherence, starting a new medication, smoking cessation, antibiotic use, and inhaler devices. But not every visit I made was to talk about medications. There were several evenings, during the Thursday walk-in clinics, where I teamed up with the social worker and just talked with each patient about his or her life.

The patients were what made this rotation site extra memorable. I met so many wonderful people this past month. As the clinic’s mission statement says, they take care of not just the uninsured but also the underserved. This was perhaps the most revealing aspect of my time here. I had no idea just how many people have insurance but either can’t afford to pay for their medical care and medications, or they’re unable to find a physician to take care of them. So having Health Partners here, as the only free clinic in Miami County, is such a relief to these people. An entrepreneur whose insurance isn’t accepted by any independent practitioner in the county, a mother recovering from a serious illness who can’t afford to reach her deductible in order to obtain medication, an elderly man who got kicked off his insurance when he switched to third shift in order to make an extra dollar an hour. These are just some of the people I have met and the stories they told me. They serve as a reminder of why I want to practice pharmacy and why so many of us went into healthcare. These patients are why some of our volunteers come back to practice after a decade of retirement, or why they come in for several hours before working a 12 hours shift in the emergency department two counties over.

I never thought I would enjoy ambulatory care this much. But everyone here just made this such an incredible experience. I found myself eager to make the hour-long commute just so I could spend another day here. It was a true pleasure to help take care of these patients. My time here at Health Partners gave me an incredibly important perspective as I move on to the rest of my rotations and the remainder of my final year of pharmacy school. A reminder to take care of the person, not just manage a chronic disease or patch up an injury. In a perfect world, people wouldn’t have to turn to a free clinic in order to receive the care they need. But until then, there are free clinics around the country that help support the millions who remain unable to afford the care they need.