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'When life gives you lemons …'

  • Sunday, April 26, 2020
    Dr. Nancy Rodriquez-Weller

    Editor's note: The transition to teaching online prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic is a new frontier for many college faculty members. Here is another essay from the frontlines

    By Nancy Rodriguez-Weller

    The pandemic has brought about many challenges in healthcare.  It is especially difficult for those of us who are educators involved in clinical practice and are also responsible for providing Advanced Practice Experiences for pharmacy students who graduate this spring. 

    Many of our pharmacy practice sites were required to quarantine, so our students had nowhere to go to apply what was learned in didactic courses taught in traditional classroom settings. 

    My day in the nursing home clinical practice typically involves interacting with patients along with physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing aides, lab technicians, dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, psychologists, administrators and therapists. 

    Communication is key in optimizing care for our elderly patients, especially those living in long-term care facilities. 

    So imagine the thoughts that ran through my head when I considered whether or not I could provide this critical hands-on experience for my students in the midst of a pandemic. 

    Wow! How am I going to do this? 

    It was cumbersome at first, but I made several adjustments to provide as much practical instruction as I could regarding the role of a consultant pharmacist in a long-term care setting. 

    One of my students offered this forceful observation after the 5-week session ended: 

    “There is a famous saying that “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” Considering this rotation started in the midst of a public health emergency, our adaptability to confront these challenges were put to the test and I am happy to say that we made the most of a bad situation in attaining the goals set out at the beginning of the rotation.

    “My personal goals were to get an understanding of the workflow of consultant pharmacists, and the resources available to them in addressing the unique challenges facing the care of our elderly population.

    “The lock down made long-term care facility visits impossible due to concerns about the potential of exposing vulnerable residents to the virulent virus. The inability to have patient contact and inter-professional collaboration was also challenging.

    “The UMES faculty member overseeing the Advanced Practice Experiences rotation was providing us with adequate data from patient cases for us to do a medication review and make recommendations based on individualized patient goals.

    “We were also able to review specific chronic disease states that are prevalent in the elderly population, as well as how the current pandemic is affecting the elderly in the Eastern Shore.

    “There were some technical difficulties encountered regarding online connectivity and loss of video feed. Nevertheless, we were able to adapt to the challenges and still achieve the goals of the rotation.

    “This experience has prepared us for future challenges we may face and has shown us the value of being proactive in seeking solutions.”

    In summary, I believe I achieved my goal! 

    Dr. Nancy Rodriguez-Weller, is an assistant professor of pharmacy practice & administration in UMES'School of Pharmacy & Health Profession