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One World, Four Perspectives

Published on 19 December 2018

Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and St. Louis College of Pharmacy maintain a memoranda of understanding to provide two-way opportunities for learning and cultural exchanges.

P4 students Amy Wong and Brooke Gutridge recently traveled to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, as part of their international advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPE). While on rotation, Wong and Gutridge worked in a pharmacy, learned about unique cultural experiences in South Africa and presented patient case studies to pharmacy students at NMU.

In September, the College hosted NMU third-year pharmacy students Nandipha Klaas and Yonela Mqokoyi. The students lived on campus, toured local pharmacies, attended classes and presented about pharmacy training in South Africa.

Each student who participated in the exchange shared their unique perspective and some key takeaways from their journeys overseas.

Nandipha Klaas, Third-Year Pharmacy Student
Nelson Mandela University

When I found out about the opportunity to visit America, I was excited to learn about the different ways to practice pharmacy and how to interact with people from different backgrounds. Although South Africa is diverse, coming to America to learn about different cultures was exciting.

While visiting pharmacies in America, I noticed almost everything is automated. The automation leaves little room for error, takes less time and really helps with workflow. I was amazed as I watched the pharmacist capture the patient’s information and saw how the computer would automatically start counting the pills and dispensing the medication.

This is a much different process than in South Africa, where pharmacists have to select all of the medications, count them manually and label them.

While I was in America, I also enjoyed seeing a drive-thru pharmacy because the first-ever drive-thru pharmacy in the Eastern Cape province in South Africa just opened this year. We haven’t even seen it yet.

Brooke Gutridge, P4
St. Louis College of Pharmacy

During my international APPE, I learned more than I ever expected. You can’t really understand a different culture until you are immersed in it.

I learned it’s common for people walking down the street in South Africa to go up to a stranger and start a conversation. There were many instances where I would see people greet one another as if they were lifelong friends. This openness was also evident within the pharmacy profession in South Africa. Pharmacists there work hard to build relationships with their patients in order to better serve them.

While in South Africa, I was also surprised to learn that clinical pharmacists there must ask for a patient’s permission before reviewing any health care-related files. Whereas in the United States, a clinical pharmacist can choose to review a patient’s medical records before they even meet the patient. This was another example of how important it is for pharmacists to understand and familiarize themselves with different cultures and their pharmacy processes in order to best serve patients.

Yonela Mqokoyi, Third-Year Pharmacy Student
Nelson Mandela University

Being in America, I could see how patient counseling is valued in both America and South Africa. What I learned is that the approaches are different.

In South Africa, it can be challenging to find time to follow up with our patients with a phone call. We are currently more focused on meeting with patients when they come to the pharmacy to address any concerns or questions they may have regarding their medication.

In America, we saw how pharmacists make it a priority to reach out to patients after they leave the pharmacy to make sure they are following the proper prescription guidelines. In South Africa, we are working toward this model, but we’re not quite there just yet.

Amy Wong, P4
St. Louis College of Pharmacy

When Brooke and I went to South Africa, we had no idea what Panado was and when we asked the pharmacist they gave us a funny look. The pharmacist explained that Panado is the trade name for paracetamol, which is known in the United States as acetaminophen.

After returning back home, I was working in a retail pharmacy when a patient came in asking for Panado. The pharmacy technician didn’t know what it was and eventually realized that the patient was looking for acetaminophen. The patient didn’t believe they were the same and left the store. I walked outside to explain to the patient that I had just returned from South Africa and that acetaminophen is our generic name for Panado.

After discussing our shared experience of visiting another country, the patient was comfortable enough to communicate all of his symptoms to me, and I realized he actually needed other medications to treat his symptoms.

If it wasn’t for my experience in South Africa, I would not have known how to gain a mutual understanding to help this patient.

While each perspective is unique, they each echo one important similarity. Above all else, pharmacists must always do what is best for the patient.

To learn more about the College’s international partnerships, visit stlcop.edu/international.

Explore more stories in the categories of: Academics , International , Practice

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