Free Clinic Student Perspective: Deanna and Rukaiyah
February 2, 2021
The year 2021 started off with a lot of help from our two pharmacy externs, Deanna and Rukaiyah. There are plenty of skills that our pharmacy students bring with them to the Clinic, but, usually, the most important thing to bring is an open heart and mind. These two came to Health Partners with that plus all the clinical skills and more they needed to complete their one-month rotation with us. They reflect upon their time with us in this month’s Student Perspective:
Before coming to Health Partners Free Clinic (HPFC), I was already excited to be a part of an ambulatory care rotation, but I did not know the new perspectives I would gain by coming to a free clinic. From the beautiful facility, supportive pharmacy preceptor, loving staff members, and caring providers, HPFC is a welcoming clinic that really shows how much they care for their community and how seriously they are about giving the best care possible. Even though I am still a pharmacy student, the nurse practitioners value my input and share their knowledge with me as well. It feels great to be a part of a team who has mutual respect foreach other and who helps each other succeed.
During my time at HPFC, I learned that I have a lot left to learn. One thing I love most about ambulatory care pharmacy is the one-on-one conversations with patients and adjusting their medications. There is so much potential in just using our words. Getting creative with questions and being willing to listen are key tools in discovering the wonderful person sitting in front of you. We all have a story to tell, and sometimes we just need a little help processing it. Whether we have physical, emotional, or mental needs to prioritize, it always helps to have someone to talk it through or to be there for support. Even though I only had a month with the patients who came to the clinic, I enjoyed the challenge of reminding myself to take a breath before walking into the patient’s room and to treat them as a person with their own story. I used to think I was studying pharmacy to become a pharmacist, but it turns out that I often am given more opportunities to be a friend. Who I am as a person should not leave me just because of a title or credentials. It almost makes me want to take off the white coat and just enter the patient’s room in normal clothes with no barriers between us. More than anything I want to show my patients that I am a person just like them and that I desire to be with them through their journey.
Experiencing a free clinic took away a couple natural barriers that build, those being time and money. No, these two things did not magically become unlimited, but they should not limit my quality of care I give. My co-APPE student and I had the opportunity to analyze and discuss reasons why some of the patients choose to come to HPFC. The answers were diverse and showed a perspective that said to me that these people need help. They want help, and they have found it through HPFC. Is it because of the beautiful facility? The access to a food pantry? The short wait times? Not necessarily; it is something we all long for: quality of care, feelings of being safe, caring treatment, and exceeded expectations. Ask anyone else outside of the HPFC patients, and they will most likely express these desires in a healthcare system as well.
While I did not want my time to end at HPFC, I took away valuable lessons that I am eager to incorporate into how I want to practice as a pharmacist in the future. In fact, not just as a pharmacist, but as a person! God has placed on my heart to be a pharmacist, but more importantly, He has called me His child. His love and goodness flow into my life which flows into how I should treat others. I can get caught up in the details of what makes up a responsible pharmacist, but at the end of the day, how I treat my colleagues, patients, family, and friends is what will really matter. I pray I wake up each morning being “transformed by the renewing of [my] mind” (Romans 12:2) in Christ to keep a focus on the purpose He has laid on my heart.
During the month of January, I had the opportunity to work with Health Partners Free Clinic (HPFC) in Troy, Ohio. Besides outreach hours that were completed through university, rotations have been my true first opportunity to gain clinical experiences and skills through hands-on learning. HPFC allowed me to work with a vulnerable and underserved population for the first time and I consider the experience invaluable. I can confidently say that working through the clinic will not only impact my future career as a pharmacist, but beyond.
It can be intimidating going into a new rotation after finally getting comfortable with a previous one but I can say that I was blessed that I was able to work with HPFC. The staff exceeded my expectations with how welcoming they were for myself and patients which was clearly shown through the quality of care that they gave. The facility was clean and organized and I appreciated this health care model. Having all services and health care professionals within one location including nurses, pharmacists, social workers, allowed for better care for our patients.
Throughout my rotations I have had a great deal of experience assessing patient medication regimens and health concerns. Providing direct care for patients with chronic diseases and counseling patients about their medications, how to use them, and answering their questions is something that I have become comfortable with. Throughout January, social determinants of health were emphasized which made me think about patients from a different perspective. The staff showed through compassion and proper resources that it is possible to help others overcome these. A personal challenge of mine was administering vaccines being that I had not worked within a community pharmacy like many of my peers and did not have much experience outside of university training. HPFC allowed me to administer flu vaccines during their outreach which made me feel more comfortable and confident with this. During this rotation I was also able to complete medication reviews with patients in order to optimize and reinforce their therapy. I plan to take this knowledge with me and apply to my daily practice throughout my pharmacy career.
Having a high quality of primary care is an important factor in prevention and treatment of health complications. HPFC was exceptional with offering those who are in need proper care and understanding that they may not have if it were not for them. The staff truly works for and with their patients. Though a month is only a short time that I was able to spend with HPFC, I am grateful for what I have gained through their work. I was fortunate enough to have experience with HPFC and would recommend any future student. The environment that they have created is welcoming for all and I truly feel lucky to have worked with such friendly people. I cannot thank the staff, volunteers, and other students enough for all they have done with our time together.