Written By: Shi Yoon Kim, Fourth-Year Student Pharmacist

Editor’s Note: This post was authored during student’s rotation with Joshana K. Goga, PharmD, BCPP, Green Belt Lean Six Sigma with the Sheppard Pratt Health System.

As a pharmacy student, my primary concern has always been about patient medications. But after my time working with patients at Sheppard Pratt, that is no longer the case. In the past month, it has become abundantly clear to me that medications are only one piece of the puzzle when crafting an impactful treatment plan for a patient. During my rotation, I repeatedly ran into cases where medication was not the end-all solution for a patient’s ailments.

I’ve learned that there are many more variables to consider. For some patients, it’s important to ask why they weren’t taking their medications. For others, it’s critical to understand the unique stressors in their lives. Does loneliness factor into outcome? How do proper communication and illness education help a patient stick to their treatment regimen?

My experience throughout this rotation has led me to the conclusion that medication needs to be considered in context and in perspective. In prior rotations, I would take a look at a patient’s profile, then take a look at their medications and see what changes should be made in order to optimize their treatment outcome. I’ve come to realize, however, that this approach does not take into account the complex and personal struggles that each patient is going through. In order to treat a patient holistically, I need to communicate with them by digging deeper into their circumstances and asking questions beyond how they are doing on their medications. I need to form a bond with them that is built on empathy and understanding. I need to establish a relationship where a patient is comfortable sharing stories and revealing personal details so that I can develop a plan that is tailored to the patient’s unique needs and cultural background.

As doctors, we should be molding therapies to include what patients want and what we believe will work for them, in an understanding manner. We should be working together with other members of the treatment team, sharing knowledge so that we have a more well-rounded understanding of our patients. Thanks to my time at Sheppard Pratt, my counseling and interviewing skills have matured, which will make me a far more effective pharmacist – one who seeks to understand his patients beyond just the numbers, and one who elicits trust and confidence in return.

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