Festival makes patient care fun for special needs population
Finding new ways to provide patient care is a a goal for the Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy APhA–ASP Chapter. In 2019, our chapter hosted the Second Annual Special Needs Fall Festival, in conjunction with MyGOAL Autism, to engage children and families of the special needs community.
MyGOAL Autism was founded by Genevieve Kumapaley, PharmD, BCOP, an oncology pharmacist and adjunct clinical professor at Rutgers. The organization serves to support families facing autism through connections, resources, and interactive programming.
A plethora of activities
The large-scale event featured a plethora of activities and more than 15 different stations. Attendees went from table to table and took part in facilitated activities, including everything from coloring to stress ball–making, smoothie-making, hula hooping, bubble blowing, dancing, and more.
Our chapter committees also set up educational stations where families could play games together and learn healthy facts along the way. One such station was the “Toss the Sugar Out” game hosted by Operation Diabetes. Participants got to knock down a pyramid of soda cans, and while conversing with the families, committee members educated them on the importance of healthy eating, risk factors for diabetes, and why beverages such as soda can be bad for the body.
Collaborators came from a variety of organizations both inside and outside the school of pharmacy. The event brought in more than 160 attendees and 63 student volunteers of all backgrounds and majors.
There were also four registered pharmacists at the event who helped run an “Ask Your Pharmacist” booth where parents and family members could receive consultations and have any clinical questions answered.
Student pharmacist value on display
The event exposed student pharmacists to a unique patient population of special needs children they would usually not get a chance to interact with. Many students also got to observe the “Ask Your Pharmacist” booth and even learned the value of a desensitization corner, a place where special needs children feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated could go to decompress.
The festival not only provided a chance for student pharmacists to explore a new avenue of patient care, but also allowed families of special needs children to see the impact and value that student pharmacists and pharmacists can provide within health care. For me, this was not only a chance to expose my fellow student pharmacists to a unique aspect of providing patient care, but also gave me a chance to expand the impact made by our chapter.
The children and their families have truly warmed my heart and reminded me why I hope to provide care for my community. This event has been one of my personal favorites as a student pharmacist, and I hope to see the Special Needs Fall Festival continue on as a yearly tradition!
Neha Nadkarni is a third-year PharmD candidate at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, and a member of the 2020–21 APhA–ASP National Member Engagement Standing Committee.