Student Perspective: Sarah and Connor
August 30, 2019
Pharmacy Students come and go here at the Clinic. We get them for just 30 days as a part of their final academic year and then they move on to their next experiential site. In order to combat this lack of time, we try to fully immerse our students in the care and life of those we are blessed to call our patients. During the month of August, a part of that immersion was delivering food to those in need at a pop-up food pantry held in collaboration with New Path and Shared Harvest Food Bank.
To add to this, our students, Sarah and Connor, were active parts of our outreach ministries that occur at partnering soup kitchens throughout the community. So when we asked them to write their Perspective of a month spent at Health Partners Free Clinic, they couldn’t help but speak to this immersion.
At Health Partners Free Clinic, treating a patient is more about diagnosing a problem and prescribing a drug. This month, I had the opportunity to participate in a healthcare team that truly makes an effort to understand every aspect of life that might affect a patient’s health. Throughout this month, I was continually challenged to think outside the box, creating unique solutions for our patients. I look forward to using these lessons as I move forward in my rotations, remembering to think about the many barriers our patients may experience in taking charge of their health.
This month, the patients I encountered often challenged my own perspectives while I listened to their stories. As one patient told me their struggles to gain access to healthy food options, I thought of how often I take simple trips to the grocery store for granted. As a future healthcare practitioner, recommending dietary changes is a conversation I have often. However, this patient expressed his feelings of helplessness when he is asked to change his diet, as he does not have the ability to make those trips to the grocery store that I myself take for granted. As a future pharmacist, I hope to regularly consider these barriers, remembering my time here with the many incredible patients of HPFC.
While serving this community, I also felt called to consider the continuous cycle that poverty can bring. On two different occasions, I had the opportunity to perform health screenings during soup kitchens in the community. As I watched many families come to the soup kitchen, I thought of how poverty can affect families for generations. Over the month, I listened to stories of young adults who were already diagnosed with diabetes and other health conditions, as they had grown up in an environment where fresh fruits and vegetables were not available and healthcare access had been difficult. This month ignited a passion in me to aid in organizations like this one that seek to break this cycle, providing quality care to those who truly need it.
This month also reminded me that as a pharmacist, I may not always see the fruits of my efforts. As a pharmacist, I am called to provide high quality care to patients. However, patients may have other factors in their life that prevent them from following the guidance we provide. As author Gregory Boyle wrote, we are truly tested when we ask the question “Can we stay faithful, even if we don’t succeed?” I learned from the providers at HPFC to consider the circumstances that may cause this nonadherence, giving patients grace while motivating them to make small manageable changes.
As I look forward to serving patients through my career as a pharmacist, I must remember my passion for helping patients where they are. This month encouraged me as I worked alongside faithful volunteers and learned from patients’ successes. As I leave HPFC, I will take with me a renewed perspective, fueling me to be an advocate for my patients even in their darkest moments.
My time at HPFC with Justin and the team was nothing short of life-changing. From the first day and introductory meeting, I could tell this would be an immersive and skill-building month. My first day in the clinic was my first of many things. It was my first time counseling a real-life patient and not a professor or classmate. It was my first time working hand-in-hand with another healthcare provider. It was the first time a decision that I made would be directly impacting a patient’s life.
Initially, it felt like someone had pushed me off the high-dive into this unfamiliar hands-on world of actually practicing pharmacy. I was told to go counsel patients on the administration and side-effects of such-and-such drug. Nurse practitioners would ask me “What’s the starting dose of this,” and “Well, what do you normally do?” I will confess, there were many a time where I had to admit that I did not know the answer they were looking for, but I would look it up and get back to them as soon as I could.
As the month progressed, I resurfaced from my initial jump into this world and became more confident. I learned how to better talk to patients. I learned how to interview them and find out things that the nurse practitioners did not. This was made apparent to me when a 53yo patient burst into tears after he was finally able to talk to someone about the problems and symptoms he had been experiencing. Possibly the most important ability I have learned, however, is how to be empathetic to an entirely new and much deeper level.
My experience at the free-clinic has been humbling and eye-opening. During outreach at local soup kitchens and free lunches, you are thrown into the realms of the poor, needy, and unwanted. You see the patients who cannot afford their insulin, so their blood sugar is three times the normal amount. You meet the couple who are living and sleeping in their car. You overhear conversations about the brother who has relapsed into heroin. You interact with the group who are all so high that some are crying and cannot comprehend what is going on. However, the more time you spend walking with them, talking with them, and understanding them, the more you realize that they are not the poor, the needy, or the unwanted. They are you.
What you learn from this rotation cannot be taught in a classroom or from reading a book. Professors can tell you to be open-minded. They can warn you about things you may see. But that will never do justice to experiencing it yourself. It has been an absolute pleasure and honor to interact with this demographic and to help educate them. Perhaps they even educated me more than I did them. To talk to them and understand where they are coming from is something I believe every pharmacist and/or healthcare provider should experience in order to provide a more holistic approach to their career. I truly cherish this time at Health Partners, and will miss it dearly. Thank you!