Pharmacists are resource for patient educators

Provide special sessions targeting seniors’ needs

Enough aspirin is consumed on a yearly basis to give every adult within the United States one bottle of 100 tablets, says Nicholas G. Popovich, PhD, RPH, professor and associate head of the department of pharmacy practice at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, and the public needs to be reminded that it’s a drug.

He recommends that patient education managers create self-care awareness programs to educate the public. Contact your community pharmacist, he advises, because your hospital pharmacy doesn’t sell many OTC products and isn’t as familiar with the problems.

Pharmacists are increasingly taking a greater role in education. At The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, pharmacists are developing self-care brochures to teach people how to select OTC drugs for various conditions. The series will cover constipation, cough and cold products, women’s health products, and analgesics. They also have begun working on a plan to approach managed care organizations to suggest that a 15 to 20 minute consultation on self-care needs with a pharmacist be covered by insurance.

At St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, pharmacists are asked to teach patients who are going home and are on certain high-risk drugs such as Coumadin, who have special medical conditions, such as heart disease, or a complicated medication regimen. All patients receive a teaching sheet that includes information about which OTC drugs to avoid while on a particular medication, says Anthony Compton, PharmD, coordinator of clinical pharmacy there. (See example of teaching sheet, inserted in this issue.)

Pharmacy schools are now teaching students how to counsel customers about OTC drugs, and you can make use of that if your hospital is located near a school of pharmacy. Contact the faculty member that teaches the OTC course to give a guest lecture or teach nurses and pharmacists at the hospital to conduct the course. (See story about educating patients, p. 15.)

When deciding which groups to target, make sure you offer classes for the elderly.

At St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL, the Senior Care Program routinely offers a program called Ask the Pharmacist. Seniors are encouraged to bring all the medications they take — both prescription and OTC. A panel of pharmacists and nurses evaluate the drugs and discuss their use with the patient.

[Editor’s note: For more information on creating an education program for seniors on OTCs contact: Betty Halsey, St. Joseph’s Hospital Call Center, P.O. Box 4227, Tampa, FL 33677-4227. Telephone: (813) 870-4078.]