PROFESSIONALS DISCUSS THE STATE OF PHARMACY
Assistant Editor, Pharmacy Times
Pharmacy professionals andstudents gathered for a roundtablediscussion held by Pharmacy Timesduring the Annual Meeting of theAmerican Association of Colleges ofPharmacy in Orlando, Florida, in July2007. The discussion was mediatedby David Trang, assistant professor ofpharmacy practice at the Feik Schoolof Pharmacy at the University of theIncarnate Word (UIW), San Antonio,Texas.
The purpose of the discussion wasto gauge the readiness of pharmacystudents for their future careers andto determine if academia had preparedthem properly. Trang openedthe discussion by asking for commentsabout the current state ofpharmacy. Michele Belsey, vice presidentof college and professionalrecruitment with Rite-Aid Corp, notedthe evolution of 2 types of pharmacists:those who want to providemore regular clinical care, such asimmunizations, and those who preferthe daily activities involved in qualityassurance for each prescription. NoraStelter, PharmD, director of educationand training for the NationalAssociation of Chain Drug Stores,pointed out that both roles wereequally important.
Margie Snyder, PharmD, communitypractice research fellow at theUniversity of Pittsburgh, said thatrecent graduates tend to notice "a disconnectfrom what is emphasized inschool and what students are trulygoing to see in practice. The focusshould be on skill development andproblem solving in both arenas, bothdispensing and traditional clinicalwork," she said.
George Downs, PharmD, deanemeritus of the Philadelphia Collegeof Pharmacy, told of the limitedoptions available to pharmacy studentsyears ago: "One [option] was toopen their own pharmacy. The otherwas, if you were a woman, you wentinto hospital pharmacy." He went onto laud the changes that have takenplace over the years. "We have seenour students take on tremendousroles that were never even imaginable,"he said.
Trang directed the next topictoward pharmacy students, asking ifthey felt they were getting adequatetraining to prepare them to practicein the real world. Laura Cardwellfrom UIW said that she would liketo see more problem-based learningin today's classrooms, and Snyderthought that students should focusmore on skill development. JodieMalhotra, PharmD, also an assistantprofessor of pharmacy practice atUIW, said that she was not sure"whether we are preparing our studentsearly enough and educatingthem on all the different opportunitiesthat they could potentially have."
Joseph Barone, PharmD, FCCP,chairman of pharmacy practice atRutgers University (Piscataway, NJ),was concerned that pharmacy studentsmay be feeling overwhelmed bythe many options open to them. Hebelieves that faculty should try tobecome more involved in counselingstudents to help them narrow downtheir feasible choices so that they donot exhaust themselves exploringevery opportunity offered to them.Ben Thankachan, RPh, manager oftalent services and campus relationsfor Wal-Mart, agreed with trying not"to scare [students] away from whattheir passion is." He also expressedthe importance of students not onlylearning the clinical aspects of pharmacy,but also the personal aspects—"patient skills, business skills, financialskills, just interpersonal skillswith people," as well as cultural competency,so they can be ready to servepatients wherever they may findthemselves.
The topic of medication therapymanagement (MTM) was brought upas it related to current pharmacy students,and the professionals wereasked if they felt that the pharmacyschools were doing enough to preparetheir students for dealing withtheir patients. Snyder reported that,while there may not be a great financialgain at the outset, seeing theinteraction between patients, caregivers,and pharmacists in the clinicshe works is "really a beautiful thing."As the pharmacists continue to workon getting provider status and havinga consistent billing mechanism, shesaid that the important thing was thatthe patients were seeing their pharmacistsin an enhanced role as aninformative health care provider.
Andrew Peterson, PharmD, chair ofthe department of pharmacy practice/administration, Philadelphia Collegeof Pharmacy, expressed concernthat his students were apprehensiveabout discussing reimbursement forcounseling services. "They think it ispart of their job to?counsel, whetherit is 1 minute or 20 minutes," hesaid. Dr. Peterson suggested moreemphasis on helping students understandthat they should be compensatedfor their knowledge and time.
This led into a discussion of thephenomena of retail clinics, andTrang asked the panel how they feltthey were helpingthe progressionofMTM. Baronepointed outthe differentroles a pharmacistplayswhen workingwithin aretail clinicsetting insidea pharmacy."When I amin the miniclinic, I amunder a separateagreement,andthen my rolechanges whenI work withthe pharmacy.I am the clinicpharmacistwithin thepharmacy, andthen when Iam outsidethat clinic, Iam the 'pharmacist'pharmacist."He feared that students enteringthese arenas might become confusedby the different roles they mayhave to play in those settings.
Snyder pointed out that an importantpart of patient relations is "figuringout what [the patients] want." Sheexplained, "If you start out the conversationwhen you sit down with apatient and say ?What do you need?,'?What...are you not getting?,' and?What can I do for you?,'" patientsbecome more at ease and moreresponsive to receiving medicationinformation from their pharmacist.Dr. Malhotra said in closing, "I thinkwhat I have seen just being withgroups?is that it is continuallyevolving. The majority of it is optimistic,and positive changes [arecoming] for our patients and ourprofession and health care overall."