Medical Mission Opportunities for Pharmacy Students
Ayesha M. Khan, PharmD, BCPS, is a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Chicago State University College of Pharmacy (CSU-COP) and maintains a practice site at Rush University Medical Center. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy in 2012 and then completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at The University of Toledo Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio.
There are many opportunities available.
Medical missions provide unique learning and professional development opportunities for pharmacy students. Several pharmacy programs offer opportunities to participate in medical missions during APPE’s or as an extracurricular activity. During medical missions, pharmacy students work in interdisciplinary teams to deliver medical and pharmacy services to indigent communities across the globe. This allows students to be more culturally competent, build upon their clinical skills, develop better communication skills, and have increased empathy toward patients. It also gives students a chance to step out of traditional pharmacy roles and further contribute to patient care.
Listed below are some services pharmacy students may participate in during a medical mission:
Medication counseling is one of the key services provided by pharmacy. This is a great way for students to apply their knowledge from the didactic portion of their curriculum and apply it to direct patient care. This can be a challenge due to language or cultural barriers; however medical interpreters are typically available if needed. Having this direct patient interaction affords students the opportunity to become comfortable interacting and connecting with patients.
2. Health and wellness education
Students may be expected to provide this service alongside medication counseling. Health and wellness education is highly individualized depending upon each patient and their medical history, which challenges students to adapt to different situations. Disease-state management, disease prevention, diet, and exercise are some of the common subjects covered with patients.
3. Medical interpretation
Pharmacy students who are bilingual can participate in this service, especially when there is a shortage of interpreters. It also opens up more opportunities for interdisciplinary team work. For example, a pharmacy student who is fluent in the local language can be paired with medical student who is not to work-up a patient and develop a care plan. This cultivates a great learning environment and exposes pharmacy students to unique disease states.
4. Triage assessment
Triage is a process used to document pertinent patient information prior to being seen by providers. It requires succinctly summarizing the information gathered and creating a prioritized problem list. It is a perfect place for pharmacy students to practice their patient interview skills. Pharmacy students are familiar with follow-up questions to ask patients regarding their complaints. They understand the importance of collecting information on past medical history, social history, past surgeries, medications, and allergies to direct patients to the correct medical service needed.
Overall, participating in medical missions is a rich and rewarding experience for pharmacy students. These unique opportunities allow students to provide valuable healthcare services to underserved populations and in doing so also enrich their own learning and self-development as a pharmacist. Pharmacy students interested in participating in a medical mission or international learning experience should contact their college’s experiential learning department (APPE/IPPE director). Additionally, students can seek opportunities through the organizations listed below:
- DOCARE International
- International Service Learning
- Work the World
This article was primarily authored by Ana Nevarez, PharmD Candidate 2017 and reviewed by Ayesha Khan, PharmD, BCPS.
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