Compassionate Care

Pharmacy Times, April 2016 Respiratory Health, Volume 82, Issue 4

Most pharmacists are driven by a desire to help their patients, but the experiences of Stephanie Ostling, a 2016 PharmD Candidate at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, have helped her to develop a particularly foundational sense of empathy.

Most pharmacists are driven by a desire to help their patients, but the experiences of Stephanie Ostling, a 2016 PharmD Candidate at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, have helped her to develop a particularly foundational sense of empathy.

Throughout much of her early life, Ostling was set on pursuing a career in architecture. However, after she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in her senior year of high school, her “passion for buildings became a passion for people,” leading her to explore different professions in the health care field.

“I shadowed an ambulatory care pharmacist and loved it! The one-on-one interaction with patients and the role of the pharmacist on the health care team were very attractive aspects to me,” Ostling told Pharmacy Times. “Additionally, I was attracted by the growing opportunities available in this profession, as well as the visibility pharmacists have among patients.”

Ostling was able to put her compassion into practice during her time at pharmacy school, where she developed and coordinated the 12-week “Girls Move” program, in which adolescent girls were taught about body image and self-confidence. She also worked with Detroit’s American Indian population, where she educated children and adolescents on tobacco use and diabetes prevention. For Ostling, these engagements with her community helped to affirm her choice to become a pharmacist.

“My community work has taught me patience, humility, and generosity; enabled me to work with unique populations of people; and grown my kindness and compassion toward others,” she explained. “These experiences have made me a better person and a better pharmacist.”

One experience that Ostling found to be particularly rewarding was her service trip to Jinotega, Nicaragua, in which she and a group of her peers taught English to children from underserved communities. The experience sparked an interest in global health work and inspired plans to partake in further medical missions throughout her career.

“This trip taught me so much about myself, about life, and what true need looks like,” Ostling stated. “I now have a greater appreciation for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with, the daily amenities I enjoy, and the freedom I have to pursue my chosen career path.”

Q: What do you think is the most important quality for a pharmacist to possess?A: If we’re talking about the most important quality when interacting with patients, my answer is compassion. Compassion builds trust and rapport; it builds relationships between a patient and a provider. Compassion is also a great motivator for helping patients achieve their health goals. But if our audience is another provider, my answer is assertiveness. Not only are we advocates for our patients, we are also advocates for ourselves and our profession. Pharmacists have a unique and important skillset, and it is imperative that we communicate who we are and what we do to other providers, patients, and payers.

Q: What do you think is the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today? Why?A: From my perspective, the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today is that pharmacists are not being heard. We are certainly making progress in various areas, such as getting pharmacists on the health care team and in provider status legislation. However, I believe the profession as a whole can do more to make our voices heard. I view my role in public health as a way to bring strength to the voice of pharmacy. Many of the communities I have worked with do not know what pharmacists do, the extent of our training, or how we can help patients. This has presented opportunities for me to educate about and advocate for our profession. We cannot rely on provider status to give us our voice as a profession. Some of the best advice I received from a mentor was that we must create our own opportunities; we cannot wait for an opportunity to be presented to us. We should utilize our creativity and value to push the boundaries of our profession and the impact we can have on the health care community.

Q: Is there a specific patient or person you’ve worked with who taught you something that will help you be a better pharmacist?A: One of the organizations I have volunteered with over the last couple of years is Vista Maria. Through this organization, I work with at-risk adolescent girls who are in a court-ordered treatment program. The curriculum I have developed for these girls evolves around loving oneself, personal empowerment, and moving forward in life. My hope is that through this curriculum, I can show these girls that they are loved and that they have value and worth in this world. Yet, while I am invested in helping them, I have realized how much they have helped me. As pharmacists, it is important that we not allow ourselves to get caught up in our checklists and agendas, but remember that each patient has a story. Instead of jumping to conclusions when we are working with a patient, we should work to better understand the person sitting in front of us.

About the School

The University of Michigan College of Pharmacy offers a traditional PharmD program, as well as a dual degree program that enables students to also pursue a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Students interested in clinical and research experience can also apply to the school’s accredited residency program, one of the first of its kind in the United States.

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The RESPy (Respect, Excellence, and Service in Pharmacy) Award is presented to the student who has made a difference in his or her community by demonstrating excellence in pharmaceutical care. For more information, please visit PharmacyTimes.com.