Pharmacy Students Tackle Culturally Competent Care at The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Pharmacy CareersFall 2022
Volume 16
Issue 2

A diverse population and financial obstacles present unique challenges for pharmacists in Hawaii.

Pharmacies in Hawaii face unique challenges, serving a diverse population that differs from that on the mainland of the United States. Analeslie Martinez, a fourth-year pharmacy student at The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, said that the health care and pharmacy experiences she had in Hawaii were ones she would not be able to find anywhere else because of the geographical differences, unique culture, and health care system.

“I believe that real connections are important when considering pharmacy care in the state of Hawaii,” Martinez told Pharmacy Times®. “It’s a really small world here.”

She added that relationships pharmacists build with health care teams and patients are extremely important. Hawaii is very community-oriented, so Martinez often sees colleagues and patients at community events. She said it is important to show her patients she is also a member of the community.

Through her education at The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, Martinez learned about the unique care these communities require and she was able to join multiple organizations that help educate the communities about chronic illnesses and provide them with free health screenings.

“Our school has helped [me] realize my goals of learning through experience, where I am able to have different types of pharmacy experiences in rural locations across Hawaii, the mainland, and abroad,” Martinez said.

However, being in such a diverse and rural area comes with challenges.

According to Taylor Eleola, a second-year student at the same school, “In such a diverse community like Hawaii, it may be difficult to provide the same care to all cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

It is not easy, she said, for pharmacists to provide culturally competent, inclusive, and actively conscious health care to everyone. However, she added that Hawaii continues to form tight-knit communities despite these diversities. According to Eleola, familial support helps increase patient adherence in Hawaii. When individuals in the community look out for one another, it makes the jobs of health care providers easier.

“That is our main goal: to look out for the health of others,” Eleola said.

In her first year, Eleola took Communication and Culture, a class that focuses on communicating drug information, using motivational interviewing skills for adherence and compliance, and education about cultural, spiritual, and religious practices. Students also learn about their role as health care providers and how to be empathetic, respectful, and active listeners and educators.

“Culturally competent care can be a learned experience, especially in a culturally diverse state like Hawaii,” Eleola said.

Conversations are a powerful tool in any pharmacy, but even moreso in a place as culturally diverse as Hawaii, she said. By talking with patients, she realized how important the community and family are when a patient interacts with the health care system. By actively listening to patients and educating patients in a conversational way, Eleola said she discovered an effective way to provide culturally competent care.

Martinez added that pharmacists are constantly ranked among the most trusted health care professionals and that it is essential for pharmacists be accessible to the community. If patients find the pharmacy helpful and have a good experience there, they will recommend it to the whole community. Additionally, she finds that when patients know their pharmacist personally, they are more comfortable and have more confidence in the pharmacy.

“Here in Hawaii, you see that time and time again,” Martinez said. “You see how word of mouth plays a huge role in how patients decide to choose their health care team.”

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