Written By: Aylin Unal, Second-Year Student Pharmacist
On April 12, students from the School of Pharmacy participated in a unique outreach event in which we have never previously been involved – collaborating with students in the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science (PT) program at the School of Medicine to provide diabetic foot screenings for homeless individuals.
Meeting a Community Need
This interprofessional partnership was prompted by feedback received from the community. In recent years, PT students have volunteered to perform diabetic foot screenings at the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center (WHRC) – the largest emergency shelter in Baltimore that provides resources for homeless individuals, many of whom have been diagnosed with diabetes. The students evaluate each patient’s medical history, vital signs, foot sensation, posture, and provide patient education.
However, one major aspect was missing from this outreach event – knowledge about the medications often prescribed to individuals with diabetes. Many patients had questions about their medications, but the PT students needed assistance providing answers. This need sparked the idea of incorporating an interprofessional approach into the event in which PT and pharmacy students would work together as a team.
Calling in the Medication Experts
Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) and associate dean for student affairs at the School of Pharmacy, reached out to the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Operation Diabetes’ chair and co-chair – third-year student pharmacist Kyuhee Kim and myself, respectively – to ask if we would like to be involved. Since second-year student pharmacists had recently completed a diabetes module in class, we pulled together a group for an experience that would allow us to apply our knowledge to real life practice.
A lot of behind-the-scenes planning took place before the event to familiarize pharmacy students with what would be expected and to prepare us for the questions that patients might ask. However, thanks to the combined efforts of faculty members Laurie Neely, PT, DPT; Linda Horn, PT, DScPT, MHS, NCS, GCS; and Dr. Layson-Wolf; student pharmacists Stephanos Gozali, Sanchari Gosh, Ghania Naeem, and Amanda Hom; and physical therapy students Nina Fisher, Kimberly Wiman, Eric Sanchez, Shannon Will, and Broderick Bass, we were able to coordinate a successful event.
Working with Patients
Upon arriving to WHRC, each pharmacy student partnered with a PT student to set up five separate screening stations, which allowed us to screen more patients and better work as a comprehensive health care team. Students’ duties were assigned to align with their unique expertise in their individual disciplines, with PT students primarily working to take patients’ medical history, complete the foot screening, and provide education, while pharmacy students took patients’ medication history and vital signs, as well as provided education about medication adherence and disease state/wellness.
Once the patient completed the evaluation, he or she was given a form that detailed his or her vital signs and the information discussed during the screening. Afterwards, all patients were provided with a healthy snack and water as a “thank you” for attending the screening.
Learning from Each Other
We screened 35 patients during the two-hour event, which was an increase over previous years. While the PT students learned a lot about the medications for individuals with diabetes, we also learned a lot about foot screening and functional mobility testing. Although student pharmacists are taught how to conduct diabetic foot screenings, the screenings provided by the PT students were more vigorous, as they asked questions about shoe size/fit and balance.
Overall, we learned through this interprofessional experience that a collaborative health care team is essential in delivering quality care to patients. The homeless individuals who attended felt fortunate to have experts in different disciplines educate them about their health and answer any questions they had. We thank all who have contributed to the success of this event and look forward to collaborating in the future.