Course Provides Students with Hands-On Outreach Experience

Published on 02 May 2018

As today’s health care leaders strive to provide the highest quality care possible, much work is being done to increase health literacy among patients. At St. Louis College of Pharmacy, P2 and P3 students are getting a first-hand opportunity to educate underserved populations about the importance of health literacy as part of the College’s Health Literacy in the Community course.

Defined as the ability of individuals to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions, health literacy has become an increasingly important issue in health care, namely in pharmacy where pharmacists are often tasked with helping patients manage complex medication regimens. Over the past seven years, Students taking part in the course have learned the core concepts of health literacy and have had the opportunity to put them into practice within the St. Louis community.

“Health literacy is integrated throughout the College curriculum, but this is a more focused course that offers students the chance to practice within the community with real people,” said Anastasia Armbruster, Pharm.D., BCPS, associate professor of pharmacy practice. “Most students leave the class having learned a new skill and passion that they will hopefully implement in all their patient interactions moving forward.”

Throughout the semester, students host presentations for residents of Gateway 180 Homeless Services in downtown St. Louis. The presentations are designed to inform residents about various health topics, including the proper storage and disposal of medication, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and nutrition.

Students also participate in an additional community outreach component of the course where they attend a health fair for children to discuss topics like poison prevention and the importance of getting regular exercise.

“Through these activities, my hope is that students are exposed to patient populations that change their preconceived perceptions,” Armbruster continued. “These service projects serve as a reminder for students about the importance of working to understand what others have gone through. It is important that we try to be empathetic to better serve our patients.”

Academic and practice experiences like the ones provided in Health Literacy in the Community prepare students for the unique role of pharmacists on health care teams. As the most accessible health care providers, student pharmacists must prepare to provide care to diverse patient populations.

“It is our job as pharmacists to make sure information is presented in a way that patients can understand, regardless of knowledge level,” Armbruster explained. “Recognizing that not all patients understand things the same way and being able to adjust and communicate to them so that they are able to comprehend their health care needs, follow appropriate medication directions and have the proper tools to take care of themselves is imperative.”

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