Those in the pharmacy world know that taking medications is oftentimes met with confusion.
That’s why students in the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy at Wilkes University formed groups and traveled to 17 area senior centers last Wednesday (April 10), including the Tunkhannock and Falls Active Adult Centers.
Dana Manning, a faculty member in the Wilkes pharmacy practice department, was in Tunkhannock to supervise practicing pharmacists as they advised seniors about their medications.
“It’s common for a lot of people to be confused about their medications,” Manning explained. “Of course, the more medications that you take, the more likely it could be that there might be some problems or confusion.”
The outreach program “Colonels Connect” focuses on older individuals, as they tend to take more medications, thus having more potential for medication-related problems.
Additionally, issues can arise when an individual has prescriptions from multiple physicians.
“Maybe their physicians don’t see everything all in one place quite as much as they wish they did, so pharmacists are an excellent resource to kind of see that patient as a whole unit,” she said. “To see them holistically and figure out does everything make sense together and is it as optimal as it could or should be for that person.”
In addition to reviewing medications, the pharmacy students, who are at different levels of the program, offered blood pressure screenings and information about safe medication disposal. They also answered general health questions from the seniors.
Leslie Shumlas, a pharmacy student at Wilkes set to graduate this May, said oftentimes, patients are unaware of what purpose their medications serve, and explaining this is an important aspect of the pharmacy profession.
“It’s awesome to be able to show patients how much the pharmacists are able to help them in the community setting, especially doing a full medication review or taking blood pressure,” Shumlas said. “It’s important to build that trust with your patients.”
Lillian Carfi and Jackie Leary both sat down with Wilkes pharmacy students Wednesday.
Carfi had questions about her medications, as well as exercise.
“Everything was great. They know what they’re doing,” Carfi said of the students.
Leary asked similar questions and also had her blood pressure taken.
“They were very helpful. It’s also good education for them,” Leary said.
Manning said it’s important for patients to not only know which medications they’re taking, but also how they work, their side effects and interactions with other medications, and how to take them properly.
This education plays into “patient empowerment.”
“They’re the person who is taking them. They need to be at the center of care,” she said.
In a busy physician’s office or pharmacy, it can be difficult to have time to ask these questions, which is why Manning believes a service like this is beneficial to seniors and others.
“It’s nice to come out and offer that service because it’s something our profession can do,” she said. “If this is a way our profession can give back, this is an excellent way to do it.”
It’s also a way to bring up the next generation of pharmacists.
“The students are really benefiting from learning the real life exposure to issues and concerns people have about their medications,” Manning said. “It’s a nice
layered learning activity where we have older students to mentor younger students, then both of them working together.”