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Third-year pharmacy students to practice serving real patients

NDSU’s pharmacy program developed an innovative project where third-year pharmacy students can apply their skills while serving real patients.

Through the Thrifty White Concept Pharmacy, a licensed pharmacy located in the College of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Allied Sciences, faculty and staff can volunteer to receive free health and wellness services, while students get to review medications, and perform blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose screenings in a real-world setting.

 Volunteers register in advance so students, grouped in pairs, can do a complete medication profile before the scheduled appointment. They review their unidentified patient’s demographic information and medication list to look for undesirable interactions. They check if medications are being taken correctly, if costly medications could be exchanged for less expensive alternatives and if the number of medications can be reduced.

During the one-hour appointment, students talk to patients about concerns and explain medication therapy management, which is a partnership of the pharmacist, the patient and other health professionals that promotes safe and effective use of medications. Throughout the meeting, a registered pharmacist faculty member is present to answer questions and make sure correct information is given.

The students are graded on all aspects of the interaction, including verbal and nonverbal communication. They have to be aware of arm and leg crossing, proper eye contact and filler words. “We watch for how they respond to the patient,” said Heidi Eukel, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, who was instrumental in initiating the medication therapy management project in 2010. “Are they really listening or are they just simply giving a response based on what they think they should say.” 

Eukel said the skills they gain during the project transfer to all areas of pharmacy practice. “The skills they’re learning – communicating with patients, evaluating medical profiles, communicating recommendations with prescribers – that’s valuable no matter where you’re practicing.” 

NDSU’s medication therapy management project is a model for other schools of pharmacy around the nation, Eukel said. Organizers published an article in a national journal shortly after it was introduced. “At the time it was a very novel approach to introduce MTM because we did have real patients. Some schools are linked with medical schools so they can recruit patients, but this was a novel way of recruiting real patients without paying them or training them as actors. And with trained actors, there’s still that, ‘What did the professor put in here as a mistake or error?’ It’s not really a true experience,” she said.

This year, faculty and staff can volunteer for the appointments scheduled March 4-8 in the Thrifty White Concept Pharmacy, Sudro Hall room 108. The deadline to sign up is Feb. 1. Faculty and staff from Concordia College, Rasmussen College and Minnesota State Community and Technical College also are invited to participate. Roughly 60 volunteers are needed. Individuals must be on at least three prescription or over-the-counter medications to be eligible.

To make an appointment, visit and click on the Medication Therapy Management link. 

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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North Dakota State University
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