As healthcare providers are increasingly called to provide services beyond their traditional roles, there is a demand for educators equipped to teach these professionals from a multidisciplinary perspective. Heeding this need, a generous new three-year grant from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) will allow the Geriatric Education Center of Greater Philadelphia (GEC of GP) to educate students and practicing professionals in medicine, nursing, dental medicine, and pharmacy, among others. In addition to providing faculty support, USP will play a role in organizing, evaluating, and implementing the programs.
“What we want to do is educate healthcare professionals about how you teach students and practicing clinicians about the issues of palliative care, health literacy, and dementia,” explained Andrew Peterson, PharmD, associate professor of clinical pharmacy and chair of the department of pharmacy practice and pharmacy administration.
According to Dr. Peterson, it is part of the professional movement for pharmacists to have a larger role in patient care. But in order to make the transition into more personalized care, the traditional pharmacy curriculum needs to be augmented. “Students in pharmacy, for example, don’t always know about health literacy and the level of literacy that patients may have,” he added. With the grant from the HRSA, USP is partnering with the University of Pennsylvania and the VA Medical Center to help fill the void of educators equipped to teach students about geriatric issues and to devise the best method for integrating these lessons into the overall curriculum.
This type of cross-disciplinary education is beneficial for all types of healthcare providers, but it is especially important for pharmacists working with the elderly. The ability to accurately communicate with patients about their specific conditions and issues can greatly reduce the probability of encountering medication complications and vastly expand the services and role of the pharmacist. “We need to be able to educate our students on how to do that,” said Dr. Peterson.
The three-year grant administered by Penn’s Division of Geriatric Medicine will provide USP with $37,800 a year to support the program. As project director for the program’s USP site, Dr. Peterson plans to use the funds to provide faculty for seven to 10 hours of teaching annually on medication issues associated with dementia, delirium, end of life care, and health literacy. Additionally, he will work with the GEC of GP to plan and implement continuing education programs of two to three hours each for pharmacy clinical preceptors to pharmacy students in clinical placements. A pilot program will be held this spring and two programs annually thereafter based on needs assessments from students and clinical preceptors.
Clinical preceptors and standing USP faculty are encouraged to participate in the GEC of GP faculty education programs. The University will jointly host a half-day “capstone” faculty development conference in the third year of the faculty development program. Also, the GEC of GP will provide faculty from medicine and nursing for three to four teaching hours per semester to geriatrics elective courses at USP.
After the program is complete, Dr. Peterson said he hopes to find that they have “increased the ability of the educators, the preceptors and faculty, to talk to students about health literacy, dementia, and palliative care.” Furthermore, once the educators are familiar with these geriatric issues and can proficiently teach others about them, he expects them to become embedded into the pharmacy curriculum, giving the program an everlasting impact.