(Written by Sarah Arthurs, Staff Writer for The Courier. Story originally published on Nov. 11, 2016).
Throughout their careers in health care, they will deal with many, many patients. But recently, University of Findlay students dealt with patients, outside of the classroom, for the first time.
Third-year pharmacy students, working with fifth-year student mentors as well as physician assistant students, got to practice their skills on seniors at a “My First Patient” event at 50 North. The student had previously been their own, and each other’s, “first patient.” Now they were out in the real world.
They tested blood glucose and blood pressure, measured body mass index, offered flu vaccinations and talked about drug interactions.
Third-year student Maribel Llamas said she was definitely nervous. But another third-year student, Rachel O’Malley, said, “It’s actually exciting.”
And student Isis Stead said they’re getting a sense of how well patients really understand the information they were given by their doctors.
Celeste Voight is a fifth-year student who was among the mentors. She recalled the My First Patient program from her own third year.
“It’s quite nerve-wracking,” Voight said.
She said the fifth-year students like her are able to answer questions, adding that students may sometimes be more comfortable with a fellow student than with a professor.
She likes “seeing the progression” between third-year and fifth-year students.
Douglas MacKenzie was one of the seniors being practiced on at 50 North. He has diabetes, so said he is used to getting his finger poked and found the tests at My First Patient no big deal.
“It was more them putting up with me,” he said.
And another senior, Virgil Grant, 69, said the young adults were “all eager” and, overall, did a good job.
Erin Thompson, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, said the seniors at 50 North are friendly toward the students, most of whom are in their early 20s.
Amy Miller, a physician assistant student, said they did a health fair on campus but this was their first time with another person.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, yeah,” she said.
She said she likes getting to know the patients and learning about their lives, often hearing stories from their life experiences.
“I think that’s the coolest part about being a health care practitioner,” she said.
Faculty in both programs say it’s this part of the job, dealing with people, that draws students in as much as the science.
Thompson said people are drawn to pharmacy because of an interest in science, but they also work closely with patients. Pharmacists are among the most accessible health care professionals, she said.
“There’s a pharmacy pretty much on any corner,” she said.
And a pharmacy degree is versatile, allowing people to work in a retail or hospital setting, in academia or in research.
Sheri Gentry, assistant professor in the physician assistant program, said people are drawn to the program because they want to help people.
“They’re people focused, to start with,” she said.
Gentry said a goal of this event was to get the physician assistant students talking with the pharmacy students and vice versa. In the real world, they would train separately but would have to work together.
“We all have to work together,” including the doctor, pharmacist and patient, said Tonya Dauterman, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and director of experiential education for the College of Pharmacy. So they are training the next generation to think of the patient and his or her needs.
The students made small talk with their patients, asking where they were from, but also covered medical information, such as asking if they’d had any surgeries recently or what medications they were taking. They found instances where they could help people.
Voight said a lot of people do regularly go to the doctor and are well-informed about their health. Occasionally, though, a person may say they are, for example, feeling light-headed, and the pharmacy students advise them to talk to their doctor.
Every now and then the students are telling the patients something they might not already know, Voight said, and it lets people know what pharmacists can do.
“Ask us a question,” she said. “Don’t be afraid.”
Dauterman agreed pharmacists play an important role, often pointing out things that patients can then alert their doctors to. “We can’t diagnose, but we can identify potential problems,” she said.
Thompson said the My First Patient program came from Butler University, which has a similar concept, but the University of Findlay added its own interpretation. It’s been a UF event for several years.