Student pharmacists give underserved communities a CHANCE
Natasha Boyette is a final-year PharmD candidate at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy. In the photo, Natasha (on the right) delivers health and wellness packages to patients at Medical Respite.
Underserved populations throughout our country can benefit from student pharmacist–led interventions. Providing these services through programs like Project Chapters Helping Advocate for Needy Communities Everywhere (CHANCE) empowers student pharmacists to promote health equity and address our nation’s need for primary care providers. As a student pharmacist attending the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, I have the pleasure of serving as chair of our chapter’s Project CHANCE (PC) committee.
PC promotes safe medication practices in underserved communities and delivery of comprehensive pharmacy services alongside a 340B-eligible entity. We work with Daily Planet Health Services (DPHS) to fulfill this mission through service events.
Health Interventions by Student Professionals for Homeless Persons (HIPHOP) allows student pharmacists to promote hypertension and obesity awareness through point-of-care testing and education. Monthly, students and faculty affiliated with DPHS work with an average of 75 residents of a long-term residential recovery program for substance use disorder. A presentation is provided based on National Health Observances. Students conduct BMI and blood pressure (BP) measurements and educate patients about individual results, disease states, medications, and health goals.
At Student Professionals Educating About Medication Management (STEAMM), third-year student pharmacists offer medication reconciliation services to residents of a 20-bed specialized shelter providing short-term recuperative care for adults experiencing homelessness. Once a month, students take BP measurements, conduct patient assessments, identify medication-related problems (MRPs), develop individualized care plans, conduct smoking cessation programs, and give educational presentations. For each event, patients receive a nutritious breakfast and snacks.
PC administers influenza and pneumococcal vaccines to patients of HIPHOP and STEAMM. We also work with local outreach ministries to offer BP, BMI, and blood glucose (BG) screenings alongside counseling services, as well as offer recommendations for referrals to necessary health and social services.
Every month, PC events enable around 24 students to provide direct patient care to roughly 90 patients. Data from STEAMM patient surveys given between 2017 and 2020 show 98% of the 148 patients who completed surveys agreed that they were satisfied with services rendered. All patients indicated they learned something new about their medications or health conditions.
During September and November 2020, student pharmacists identified 37 MRPs among the 201 medications taken by 22 STEAMM patients. Patients from HIPHOP and other outreach events verbally reported satisfaction with PC events, stating this is the only way they can monitor their BP or BG.
As events were canceled due to COVID-19, it was harder for student pharmacists to obtain service-learning opportunities; therefore, STEAMM began seeing patients bimonthly. This change allowed students more time to follow up with developed care plans. Currently, PC is working to adapt services to new COVID-19 ordinances, and in-person events are on hold. Implementation of virtual education presentations and counseling services is underway.
PC is also developing health and wellness care packages that include resources to help patients safely manage their medications, understand adverse effects of commonly used medications, and track their health progress.