Pharmacy Students Gain Real World Experience at Cooper Rowan Clinic

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on June 10, 2019

Learning about patient care settings in a classroom can only do so much to prepare students for the realities of treating patients. At the Cooper Rowan Clinic students in the doctor of pharmacy program work with patients who are uninsured or underinsured, may struggle to afford their medications, and may not reliably get medical care.

“They are working with a challenging population,” said Brooklyn Cobb PharmD, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy who also serves as a clinical preceptor for students working at the clinic on their rotations. “But students are building relationships with their patients and it helps them advocate more for their own healthcare.”

The students work with medical students from the Cooper Rowan School of Medicine in an interprofessional setting, taking medical histories, analyzing drug interactions, and helping to find low-cost or affordable options for patients in need of prescription medications.

Cooper Clinic“I do get to have that hands-on experience with patients and be able to develop my skills to properly interact with them and make them feel more comfortable in the healthcare setting,” said Gianna Mazza PharmD’21. “It has shown me how just working with a whole team has so much impact on how you take care of a patient and their healthcare plan.”

They also learn about dispensing medications, the information that goes on a drug label and how to advocate for their opinion in a healthcare setting with other professionals.

“They have a great opportunity to work within a longitudinal experience with other medical professionals,” said Dr. Cobb. “The medical students rely on them for questions about medications and it builds their confidence and shows them that they have an important role in the patient care team.”

The students also learn about cultural competencies and empathy skills that are difficult to teach in the classroom. Dr. Cobb said this could be as simple as the language that you use when asking someone about their healthcare.

“You never want to assume someone’s story or that they don’t care about their health because they missed an appointment,” she said. “it is about recognizing that there can be other barriers so you don’t rob people of their dignity by assuming things.”

Cooper ClinicMazza said she has learned how to interact with patients who have different needs, including in circumstances where there is a language barrier and a translator is required. She recalls one patient who would bring a friend to help her translate, but when using a medical translator in her native language, Mazza found she got more thought-provoking and meaningful answers from the patient.

“By adapting to this new method of communication, I was able to give her better care and a better outcome,” she said.

Students rotate through the clinic over two years, each with layering responsibilities. By the second year, they are seeing patients by themselves, to counsel them and help make an intervention.

Cooper Clinic MedicationsDr. Cobb recalls one student who was reviewing a patient’s profile and their medications, finding an alternative medication that would resolve some issues that the patient was experiencing.

“She was able to go in and see the patient, make a recommendation to the team, and counsel the patient on the medication changes,” said Dr. Cobb. “She said ‘this is what it is all about.’”

Dr. Cobb said she loves those moments because it increases confidence and reaffirms their passion for the pharmacy career.

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