The First Week of PAIN (Management)

If you have ever been to a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream store, you will understand the daunting task of choosing 6 rotation sites out of 640 options. A requirement of the selection process was to write a personal statement summarizing my professional goals and principles in an attempt to guide my choices. My opening statement read as follows:

“…[I believe] in the potential of pharmacists to optimize patient care…to treat patients efficaciously and as comfortably as possible via consideration of specific patient characteristics and anticipation of potential side effects. We meet people at a vulnerable point in their lives …it is part of our responsibility to show empathy and understanding.”

This statement foreshadowed my experience at the Stratton VA pain clinic. There is a stigma associated with persons on chronic pain therapy particularly those being treated with opioids. But at the pain clinic, complaints of pain are acknowledged as true and the goal is to restore patients to an acceptable level of functionality.  It is a great example of achieving that balance between humanistic and clinical care.

What I did not expect was how much I did not know! Even though this is my first APPE, I anticipated that after 5 years of nothing but drugs and disease states, I would be a quasi-expert! But being asked questions on the spot is so much more daunting that I had expected; I am so much more nervous than I anticipated. But from shadowing my preceptor as he interacts with other practitioners, I have realized that the profession requires the ability to respond to drug related queries, confidently and accurately, and often instantaneously.  We should be the drug information experts; having that knowledge off-hand is one of the ways that we can help to develop a trusting relationship between physicians, pharmacists, and an array of healthcare providers.  If my response is going to be, “let me look that up and get back to you” well, the physician could do that himself. In one of our discussions about how I could become a successful clinical pharmacist, I was advised that the key is to provide a unique vital service that cannot be imparted by other team members; any one on the team can look up the same resources that I can.  Of course one advantage we do have if research is necessary, is that a pharmacist’s interpretation of that data will likely be distinctive.

I am grateful that I started my APPE with this rotation because I am developing strong principles of practice that I will carry to my subsequent rotations. I feel like I am starting my final year with great momentum and my goal is to garner as much knowledge and advice as I can from the pain rotation.  At the end of the first week, I am hopeful about the contribution that I can provide to a patient care team as I am witnessing and participating in pharmacy practice at its best.  It has set the expectations for my own career very high.

Dania Fontenelle

Dania Fontenelle
Pharm.D. Candidate 2013
Albany College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

6 thoughts on “The First Week of PAIN (Management)

  1. Dania,
    If you really want to be a very successful pharmacist, you need to interact with patients as much as you can. This way, you will develop/enhance your knowledge and experince over time. I have absolutely no doubt that you will be a very successful pharmacist in the future!

  2. Great job Dania! Soon what you learned in the classroom and what you see in the clinic will start to come together. Keep at it!

  3. As someone who works in healthcare I appreciate that you are being trained to truly handle pain. Everyday I see patients who suffer; who just want to feel better. It may be a struggle for you right now but know that you are working towards something that will significantly impact patient care.

  4. Pharmacy has definitely changed; it is great that you are getting the opportunity to see something beyond traditional practice. Like Ben and Jerry’s there are a lot of “flavors” to pharmacy; continue to explore them. The more varied your exposure, the greater your contributions can be to the team. Good job!

  5. Learning is a process that never stops, and the best way is from direct interaction. As you go along your confidence will build…and you will become that “quasi-expert”.

  6. Love the Ben and Jerry’s analogy for choosing rotations! I can relate to feeling like you don’t know enough. I suppose the saying “the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know” is true!

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