Enhancing patient care through diversity
Ismael D. Santiago, MSc, is a final-year PharmD candidate at the University of Puerto Rico School of Pharmacy.
Throughout the 20th century, hurricanes, wars, famine, and work opportunities have pushed waves of Puerto Ricans back and forth between the continental United States and the island. My grandparents left Puerto Rico for Chicago with their children in the great 1950s immigration but returned to the island in 1962. My grandmother was widowed not long afterward. As a single parent, she signed the lease for a house with what little she had and finished raising her children in Puerto Rico. The first generation in our family to go to college, they were fluent in English and Spanish and my first language teachers.
A generation later, I am bilingual and in the final months of my doctorate in pharmacy. I am one of many.
To some degree, all students from Puerto Rican pharmacy schools can communicate in both languages. While course materials, patient care guidelines, and exams are in English, discussions on patient care and counseling occur mostly in Spanish. This unique dynamic readies the island’s future pharmacists to better serve the growing Hispanic population.
During my APPEs, and as a pharmacist intern, I have been able to translate this knowledge into practice while being more receptive to the pharmacological needs of Spanish-speaking patients. Being able to communicate with our patients in their native tongue enhances pharmaceutical care. It has allowed me to build more meaningful connections with patients, be clearer on therapy expectations, and prevent misunderstandings about medication use.
When patients can express themselves in their own language, they are more assertive and feel more comfortable expressing their specific needs and concerns. Pharmacists can then consider these needs and concerns to offer patient-specific pharmacotherapeutic alternatives.
APhA–ASP National President Juan Rodríguez said, ¨Together we are stronger, because together there is Unity in Diversity.¨ I believe that his theme, Unity in Diversity, is limitless, just as big dreams are. My ethnicity and heritage are just one example of the diversity that holds great potential for our patients and profession.
With our nation’s troubled social history and current turbulence, there could not be a better time to address and promote the importance of diversity. I invite student pharmacists to recognize the social diversity of our patients, with a guarantee they will further patient care.