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Pharmacy Students Learn About Medication Adherence First-hand

pill-boxesSecond and third-year pharmacy students enrolled in the Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Elective spent the past month learning about the difficulties of medication adherence first-hand. Nineteen students were given a pillbox and 15 candies representing medications with various schedules of administration. Students were required to fill their pillbox according to their medication list. At the midpoint, students were given two medication changes mimicking real-life scenarios. Following the four-week project, students submitted a focused reflection and discussed the experience with their classmates. Students consistently deemed the pillbox experience a positive one.

Second-year pharmacy student Erin Todd said, “Beyond getting to enjoy my favorite candy (Juicy Pear Jelly Belly®) twice a day, I enjoyed having the experience to put myself in a patient’s position. This project was highly effective in increasing my awareness of the difficulty of medication adherence and the complications of pill burdens. We have the advantage of missing medications that are only sugar, while the consequences of our patients missing a dose is much more serious.”

Chris Conkling, another second-year pharmacy student, said, “It has given me a greater sense of perspective for what some of our patients have to deal with. And, if nothing else, it has made me more conscious about my own health, as I have no desire to have to go through this experience with actual prescriptions. I really enjoyed how this project truly immersed me into a patient’s daily routine. I feel that I got a real sense of how their day would go along with all the struggles of balancing a life outside of the medications.”

Third-year pharmacy student Sara Rower, who will begin her Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences in May, said, “From the very first day of the project, I was already having difficulties remembering to take my doses consistently. One day and I was already having trouble- and most patients are on this many medications their whole lives. That was a real ‘ah-ha’ moment. Adherence and compliance are always concepts that we stress and emphasize to our patients but, up to this point, I could never really relate. Even though this was just a simulation, I have much more sympathy for patients taking multiple medications.”

Dr. Ashton Beggs, the course coordinator of the elective, was pleased with the students’ response to the assignment

“When patients are not adherent to their medication regimen, it can lead to adverse and costly health outcomes,” Beggs said. “Completion of this assignment allows students to empathize and identify with patients leading to better patient relationships and  ultimately improved healthcare for the patient.”

Students enrolled in the Ambulatory Care Pharmacy elective spend the spring semester focusing on topics pertinent to primary care, including financial considerations, patient education, health literacy, technology available to patients and health care providers, and medication adherence. Common primary care disease states, such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma, and pharmacists’ impact on the treatment and understanding of these conditions have been addressed in the course as well.

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