Student Perspective: Bret, Jared, and Shelby
May 1, 2020
The month of April 2020 has been like none other for many reasons. To state the obvious, this month brought the first pandemic that our community has seen in over 100 years. For a free clinic, Health Partners had to quickly make clear decisions on how to adjust procedures in order to keep our people safe. This month also brought another first in the fact that we hosted three pharmacy students and had a student return for a second rotation with us due to the limited educational sites available to the schools. Bret, Jared, and Shelby brought with them priceless value during a time when extra hands at the Clinic were limited and yet needed at the same time. Finally, they provided a Perspective in a very unique time that they have been kind enough to share:
This month was definitely a growing month for me. I am someone who very much enjoys technical speech, talking with nurses and physicians, and getting into the nitty-gritty of pathophysiology. This month was almost the exact opposite of that. I was forced to slow down and back up as I looked at the big picture. These are not acutely ill patients who need well researched, cutting edge therapies. But they have been difficult in their own way.
These patients forced me to look into factors I have never had to before. Why hasn’t this patient been taking their Clopidogrel? They had an NSTEMI 2 weeks ago and have not gotten a single dose. Oh, it is because they have no car and cannot pick up the prescription. Why has this patient been so noncompliant with their insulin? Oh, it is because they have been incarcerated and did not have a steady supply of insulin. I encountered many more patients like these this month, all of them similar in one way. The hand they have been dealt in life has limited their access to healthcare. These people have diseases that are common (asthma, diabetes, hypertension) but their social and economic factors separate them from receiving the care they need, the care that most people would receive.
These problems are deeply seeded and not amenable to any quick fix. It is impossible for us to just go out and buy a car for everyone who cannot get their medications. Due to the nature of our economy and healthcare system, it is impossible to give every patient the highest level of care regardless of their ability to pay. We cannot go back in time and provide proper education and health literacy to these adults who do not understand their disease states or how to take their medications.
But one thing I learned this month and something I hope to keep learning is that each one of these people is an individual. And each individual person that you can help matters. In fact, it means the entire world to at least one person. So anyway we can help will always be worth it. Some ways may be more beneficial than others but it is important that we keep trying.
Personally, this was something that I really needed. With the type of focus I have and the practice I am going into, these are factors I will rarely come into contact with. But they are always there. Every patient I am working with will have some disadvantage. And it may be impossible for me to know what is going on with every patient. But this month has taught me that there is something going on in each and every patient and I need to show grace wherever and whenever I can.
As a last year pharmacy student, I have been studying and learning all there is to know about medications since the beginning of my pharmacy education. I have been taught the correct way to counsel patients on medication uses and the possible side effects patients should be aware of. My month here at Health Partners was my last month before graduation and prior to my experience here, I felt prepared and ready to begin my career as a pharmacist. I was ready to advise patients and caregivers about evidence based medicine and how to optimize their health. I was ready to put my knowledge into action.
I showed up at Health Partners on my first day, excited to begin my last rotation. Little did I know that my month here at the clinic would impact me in ways I could have never imagined. Upon arrival on my first day, I do not know exactly what I was expecting but this clinic exceeded all of my expectations. The facility is updated and well-kept with the friendliest staff and volunteers. Patients are treated with respect without being made to feel less than because of their current situation.
Not only was my experience at Health Partners unique in itself, the fact that I got to experience Health Partners during the global COVID-19 pandemic made it even more unique. Since unemployment rates have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, access to health care has decreased. People are finding themselves without insurance and no income to afford healthcare. In times like these, it is essential to have clinics like Health Partners able to provide high quality family medicine. Without this clinic in Miami County, many people would be going without healthcare, including essential medicine required to live healthy lives.
My month here at Health Partners taught me that health includes more than the medicine patients pick up from their pharmacy. It includes the food they eat, the environment they live in, as well as the people they interact with. Social determinants of health play a very large part in a person’s overall health, a lot more than I was aware before my month at Health Partners. When interacting with patients in the future, I will be more open and aware of all aspects of their health and how I can improve their health as a whole.