As students spend time in institutional settings during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, they will inevitably have some responsibilities that need to be carefully followed and reviewed. Below are 6 general responsibilities that pharmacy students will, without a doubt, need to be familiar with during their time in medical facilities. The acronym PLEASE may help to keep them in mind.
 
  1. Protocols: Everyone should know the various protocols being followed at their institution. It could differ slightly, or in major ways, depending on the institution’s philosophy of medicine and various regional regulations during the pandemic. But it is part of an employee’s responsibility to understand how to observe and maintain the quality of care.
  2. Location: Everyone should know where COVID-19 patients are being treated within the facility. Although we are taught in the critical care unit at my institution to treat everyone as if they have COVID-19, it is still vital to know where the patients are so that you can ensure that you and your team are practicing—at the very least—your best hygiene habits around those patients’ rooms.
  3. Emotion: Within an institutional setting we encounter a variety of individuals, and stress can be particularly high during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s your preceptor, your colleagues, other health care professionals, or your patients, we should try to keep emotions in check. One way we can do this is by maintaining a sense of normalcy. Even with face masks and minimal physical contact, we should try to simulate a normal life. Medical professionals should contribute to a calm environment so that our patients who are already in distress won’t have excess stress on their lives.
  4. Assist: Consider taking a COVID-19 contact tracing course. There are online options, and although this isn’t necessarily within pharmacy students’ job descriptions, it is something that is important to know in case that we need to offer assistance in any capacity. It only takes a few hours, but can easily be accomplished during a few lunch breaks over the course of a week.
  5. Strategize: Minimize exposure to your families if possible. One simple strategy may include leaving your whitecoat at the rotation site to avoid bringing any potential germs back home. Another strategy is to change and bathe once home to minimize spreading germs throughout the house and to other family members or roommates.
  6. Education: It’s not every year that we have to deal with a global pandemic. As medical professionals, we should learn what is and isn’t working throughout this pandemic so that in the potential reality of something like this occurring again, we can be better prepared and suited for success. We should take this opportunity to learn because the practitioners who are leading the charge, for the most part, did not have a physical example to reference. Instead, they relied on literature of cases from around the world as well as historical epidemiological data from past pandemics.

It is imperative that we stay optimistic during this chaotic time. The world looks to medical professionals for leadership and strength during these times of doubt and uncertainty. By using a positive outlook on these circumstances, we can learn many lessons that will set us up for success in the future, all while providing strength and positivity to the communities that we serve.
 
Jared C. Sheneman is a PharmD candidate at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy.