By Crystale Lopez
UIW’s Feik School of Pharmacy (FSOP) has established a strong tradition of interacting with the San Antonio community through various initiatives that not only provide assistance to the community but also allow students hands-on learning opportunities to gain experience in their field.
Fourth-year students in the FSOP, along with their supervisor and professor Dr. Vanessa Phillips, are educating members at Haven for Hope about their medications, and are creating awareness about their well being through health information screenings.
Haven for Hope is a non-profit organization in San Antonio that helps transform the lives of homeless men, women and children through education, job training and behavioral health services.
“One of the tenets of UIW is service and when the School of Pharmacy opened, the dean strived to meet all the values of the university,” Phillips said. “When Haven for Hope contacted the FSOP, the dean saw opportunity – the opportunity to help the community, for students to learn, and to share with everyone what pharmacists can do and how they can help.”
Phillips said Haven for Hope is very supportive and trusts the endeavors UIW takes on in helping its members.
Students help Haven of Hope members on a daily basis with their required medications. Each member is assigned a case manager that helps with their needs, and refers them to FSOP students if they are taking two or more medications. One-on-one hour long appointments are scheduled through the case manager for students to review medications and discuss how to take them, when to take them, side effects that may occur and answer questions the member may have.
“The first week the students go to Haven for Hope, they watch me to get an idea of how appointments go and questions they will likely be answering,” Phillips said. “After the first week, the students lead the appointments on their own, under my supervision.”
Phillips said she and the students all work as a team. “When they work directly with the members this also helps the students learn about effective communication,” she said.
“As a fourth year student about to graduate, one of my goals was to increase my communication skills and taking part in the efforts at Haven for Hope allows me to learn these skills that we are not otherwise exposed to in a classroom setting,” said Kathrine Bode, FSOP student. “We are meeting new people on a daily basis and talking with them to make sure they are educated about the medicines they are taking.”
Haven for Hope members find the appointments very helpful, as some have medications that change on a regular basis.
“The members need this assistance because a lot of times the doctor will make a diagnosis and prescribe medications, but will not have the time or opportunity to go into detail or explain the condition and new or changed medications,” Phillips explained.
A recent case Phillips recalled was a patient diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure and given various new medications.
“Diabetes was going to be the most difficult diagnosis to tackle so that is what we focused on first,” she said. “We try not to overwhelm the member, so we begin by going over the basics.”
They not only explained the new medications to the member, but also educated her about diabetes and the lifestyle changes that would need to be made including diet and exercise.
“We went over how often she would need to test her blood sugar,” she said. “The member was going to receive a new machine to test her blood sugar so she made an appointment to see us at a later time as well so we could show her how to use the new machine.”
UIW has been partnering with Haven for Hope for more than one year now, and strives to be present 20-30 hours per week. Phillips said the feedback she has received from the students is that their experience has been better than they ever could have expected.
“The students taking part want to try something different and take their education one step further,” she said. “Students learn that the Haven for Hope members are just like us and have medical issues and need questions answered or things clarified.”
“The members are so grateful and appreciative, not only because we are providing them information about their medications, but also because we take the time to talk to them and address any concerns they have,” said Erin Green, FSOP fourth year student. “Getting to experience this patient interaction and engaging with members helps me not only apply what I have learned in the classroom, but also learn how to modify it to meet each members needs.”
Every two to three weeks the students offer the members an all-day health information screening to focus on subjects such as blood pressure, blood glucose levels and more.
“The students really enjoy the health screening days,” Phillips said. “They are given the opportunity to select the topic they want to share with members and then design the screening.”
During screenings the students see about 60-70 people per day and pass out information and answer questions about the selected topic.
“We try to use the health screenings to point members in the right direction,” Bode said. “Our first screening of the year focused on healthy weight and eating, so we took their weight and body mass index (BMI) and gave them food logs and handouts that talk about healthy eating habits and how it helps to be mindful of what you are eating.”
The students also created visuals to educate members and show them what portions look like and what things like fat look like.
“We like to use things they are familiar with, too, so we made sure to include health facts from fast food chains that we know they regularly eat at,” Bode said.
The students agreed that after taking the time to help at Haven for Hope they have taken away gratitude and a sense of service to others.
“It is a very eye opening experience as we are working with people from all different backgrounds so it is something different every day,” Green said. “It is very rewarding to see my education at work and how it can help people and make a difference.”