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Pharmacists Provide Patient Care Services at National Legislators Meeting

Donna Young

State lawmakers and policy officials at the July 25–27 annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in Denver experienced firsthand the broad range of patient care services that pharmacists can provide.

About 60 volunteer pharmacists and pharmacy students screened more than 1,000 NCSL conference attendees and counseled them about the results of cholesterol, diabetes, respiratory, cardiovascular, body-fat, and bone-density tests at an exhibit sponsored by the Alliance for Pharmaceutical Care, of which ASHP is a member.

Kristina Lunner, ASHP’s state legislative and regulatory affairs director, said the alliance, one of many health care-related groups at the conference, was the only organization that offered health screenings.

ASHP members who volunteered to participate at the conference, Lunner added, were "key to the booth’s success."

Georgia pharmacist and ASHP member Samee C. Ellerbee, B.S., changed her vacation destination from Florida to Colorado so that she could help screen and counsel conference attendees at the alliance's exhibit.

"I believe in giving back to the profession, and the conference was an opportunity for me to do that," she said.

Ellerbee, a staff pharmacist at Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta, said she is already planning next year’s summer vacation to be in San Francisco—the location of the 2003 NCSL annual meeting.

At the exhibit, Ellerbee took conference attendees’ blood-pressure readings. She is credentialed in diabetes management through the National Institute for Standards in Pharmacist Credentialing and is a certified diabetes educator.

"As a pharmacist working in the federal sector, I have more freedom with what I can do as a professional," she said. "I decided that, since I have the experience in disease management and knew how to do it, I should go and share it with others. It’s important to show the diversity of our profession. We all have to work together to show what pharmacists can do."

One official with diabetes who Ellerbee counseled at the exhibit, she said, was a "hospital admission waiting to happen."

"It was a good thing we were there," she said.

Kelly Hampton, B.S., Arizona-area clinical pharmacy manager for grocery-store giant Safeway, said the exhibit gave pharmacy professionals from various health care settings an opportunity to "pull together as a profession to show how we can impact health care."

"We are not just out there counting and pouring," she said. "We need to show that we are moving toward patient care and make people aware that we are qualified."

Hampton oversees Safeway's disease management programs. The grocery-store chain sponsors pharmacist-managed community health screenings at special events and is broadening a program to train Arizona pharmacists in diabetes management.

Joel Giles, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy in Denver, said the exhibit gave legislators and other conference attendees the opportunity to see the pharmacy profession attached to patient care.

The exhibit also gave pharmacists a nonpolitical way to change legislators’ perceptions about the pharmacy profession, he added.

Giles oversees the university’s partnership program with King Soopers Pharmacy in Denver, where pharmacy students participate in the company’s patient-care services program as part of their experiential rotations. Pharmacists and pharmacy students at the patient care centers, he said, conduct cardiovascular risk assessments and counsel patients who have diabetes.

Students from several pharmacy schools, including the University of Colorado at Denver, University of Iowa at Iowa City, Iowa’s Drake University at Des Moines, University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, and University of Wisconsin at Madison, volunteered to screen conference attendees for health conditions and counsel.

Mercedes E. Dombi, a third-year Pharm.D. student at the University of Colorado and president of the Colorado Society of Health-System Pharmacists student chapter, said that pharmacy students need to be politically active and participate at events like the NCSL annual meeting.

"If we don’t want to be known as ‘count-lick-and-stick’ our whole lives, then we need to take part in moving things forward," she said. "The conference was a great opportunity for students to go above and beyond their academic studying and be part of something that is going to progress the profession. Pharmacists need to show their philanthropic side and get out into the community to show the humanistic aspect of what we do."

Many of the students who volunteered at the exhibit are Kaiser Permanente pharmacy interns, according to Kaiser pharmacy manager Susan L. Downard, B.S., who helped recruit the volunteer students for the project.

"Because many of the students were in different years of school and had different curricula, it was fascinating to watch them assist each other," Downard noted about the students at the exhibit. "I watched them mentor each other as some of them learned to take blood-pressure readings for the first time."

Many of the legislators at the conference, Downard said, expressed interest in the pharmacy students’ curricula, training, and career goals.

Downard talked with conference attendees about their cholesterol-screening results. Many of those who were screened admitted to having health insurance that covers preventive care and well-health visits, she said, but have never undergone routine physicals.

One 31-year-old public official who had visited the exhibit at last year’s NCSL meeting discovered that, when she returned this year for a screening, her cholesterol level had risen 100 points, Downard said.

Downard counseled the official and encouraged her to schedule a physical as soon as possible.

"She was truly appreciative of the service she received and promptly went back to her hotel to make an appointment," Downard said. "For some legislators, we made a difference in their personal health. For others, we helped them better understand the role of the pharmacist as a care provider. Either way, we added value to the health care system."