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Students see flip side of medicine on home visits

By Jeanni Brosius

This article was published November 10, 2011 at 3:40 a.m.

— Registered nurse Burt Bates returned to his office at White County Medical Center’s Home Health Care Agency after making a home visit to a patient Friday morning. Along with Bates, fourth-year Harding University pharmacy student Jake Blair makes home visits as part of his education.

“The students look at the meds and help the nurse develop an initial list of meds,” said Kelly Chism, an RN and clinic coordinator at WCMC’s Home Health Care Agency. “The pharmacy students look into the meds more.”

Just as with the hospital’s call center, where pharmacy students call patients recently discharged from the hospital, the home visits, which began in July, are an attempt to keep patients from going back into the hospital.

The pharmacy students go into the home with the home-health nurse and reconcile all of the patient’s medications. The list is printed out into a daily schedule for the patient. The comprehensive schedule contains information such as times the medications should be taken, the purpose and a photograph of each medication. In addition to the list, a wallet card with all the information is printed for the patient to present his physician or at the hospital.

“When the pharmacy students go out, they also make recommendations,” Chism said. “The nurses love having them around.”

The students offer fresh eyes with specialized training in medications, and those students sometimes catch things that can potentially save a patient’s life.

For instance, former student Tanyon Reeves discovered a dosage discrepancy in a 96-year-old patient’s heart medications and brought it to the attention of the nurse.

Bates said the patient said he didn’t have the energy to get out and have lunch with his friends anymore, which affected the quality of his life.

“[Reeves] did some research on the meds and said, ‘That looks like a lot of heart meds for a 96-year-old,’” Bates said. “Just cutting that one dose in half, [the patient] was able to get back out and eat burgers with his friends. He told us we gave him his life back.”

One of the benefits for the students is interacting with the patients in their environment.

“You see the flip side,” Blair said. “When you get to their house, you see what’s really going on. There might be 400 pill bottles on the table.”

Blair said seeing the patients in their homes also made him realize that they might have difficulties giving themselves injections, or they may be confused over which pill to take when. This is an opportunity for the pharmacy students to educate the patients beyond what they would receive in a retail pharmacy setting.

“From a nursing standpoint, with that trained set of eyes, [the students have] given us insight. We don’t get that in depth pharmacy training [in nursing school],” Bates said about the pharmacy students accompanying him on home visits.

Lindsay Elliott, pharmacy practice resident for Harding University, said she believes every pharmacy student should go into a patient’s home.

“It enforces empathy for patients,” she said. “It will make you a better health care worker, no matter your field.”

Blair agreed and added that the experience changed his perspective.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to see the real world,” Blair said. “To me, it’s so basic, but I have to remember it is not to all people.”

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

Three Rivers, Pages 49 on 11/10/2011

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