Script Your Future – Tips on Talking With Your Pharmacist About Using Medications Safely

Script Your FuturePharmacists are a valuable resource for patients when they have questions about their medications. Being the drug experts means that pharmacists are well-educated in both prescription and non-prescription medications. If you or someone you know have any questions about your medications and how to take them safely, contact your local pharmacist!

When speaking with your pharmacist regarding your medications, it is very important to give him/her any information about your health and current medications. Things to inform your pharmacist about include: any food or drug allergies, if you have any restrictions that could influence your ability to take medications (i.e. difficulty swallowing), a list of all your current medications and health conditions, and if you are pregnant or may become pregnant, etc.

When asking your pharmacist, or any other healthcare professional for that matter, a question regarding your care it can be helpful to write down a list of questions you want to ask them. Examples of questions to ask your pharmacist:

  1. What are the brand and generic names?
  2. What is this for, and how is it going to help me?
  3. How and when should I use it? How much do I use?
  4. How long should I use it? Can I stop using the medicine or use less if I feel better?
  5. What should I do if I miss a dose or use too much?
  6. When will the medicine start working? How should I expect to feel?

When talking with your pharmacist about your medications, be sure you write down any important information they tell you, take home and read any pamphlets of information provided to you, and make sure you have the pharmacy’s phone number in case you need to call back for further questions! Once you get home, there are additional steps you can take to ensure you are taking your medications safely and properly. Tips for safe medication use at-home include: double checking the label on the bottle to make sure you are taking the correct medication, using proper measuring devices (syringes, medication spoons, etc.) to get the correct dose, and following proper storage directions for the medication (refrigeration, away from light, etc.).

For more helpful tips on how to talk to your pharmacist and take your medications safely, visit www.fda.gov/usemedicinesafely

Communication Skills are Essential for Pharmacists & Medication Adherence

SOP script your future_FB newsfeedPharmacy students are among the smartest people I know—hands down! Their propensity for science and math contributes to their ability to process large amounts of complex information. I am constantly impressed by the mental prowess of my students.

A scientific mind is indeed key to success in pharmacy school and in the pharmacy profession but I urge any student thinking about entering the profession to also consider the importance of communication skills—in particular, interpersonal communication skills. We all know role of the pharmacist in health care includes: medication therapy management, point of care testing, and monitoring and changing medications via collaborative practice. As the role of the pharmacist in health care increases, it will be even more important for pharmacy students to hone their communication skills.

I often remind our students at UCSOP that breaking information down into digestible pieces for patients is crucial. In fact, the average American reads at the 7th grade level (not at the pharmacy school level). It takes finesse to explain complex information related to medication and disease management in layperson’s terms (so patients and their caregivers understand). It also takes strong interpersonal communication skills to effectively manage one’s emotions and respond effectively to the emotions of one’s patients. In fact, some research has started to suggest that the higher a health care provider’s emotional intelligence, which includes relational skills, the better health outcomes for a patient.

Pharmacists can also increase medication adherence by effectively communicating with patients through medication adherence monitoring, medication reviews, and patient counseling. As we at UCSOP are engaged in the Script Your Future Challenge, a nationwide medication adherence campaign supported by the National Consumers League (www.scriptyourfuture.org), it’s important that we take time to note the importance of communication skills for pharmacy students. Developing these skills now, will help students serve their current and future patients as well as highlight the important role pharmacists play in patient care.

  • 50-60% of patients do not take their medications as prescribed
  • Lack of adherence leads to over 125,000 deaths in the U.S. each year and contributes to $290 billion dollars in health care costs
  • Almost 30% of patients stop taking their medications before their supply runs out

Imagine being someone who has the power to educate patients about the importance of adherence simply through conversation and counseling? Pharmacists do not have to imagine this because it’s what they do each and every day.

If you are a pharmacy student, consider honing your own communication skills by following these simple tips:

  • Check to make sure your non-verbal and your verbal communication match.
  • Actively listen without interrupting.
  • Express empathy by acknowledging that someone may be having a hard time
  • Ask questions about what would help the situation? What is a reasonable action a person can take given their resources and limitations?
  • Ask for feedback from faculty and preceptors regarding how you can improve your communication skills.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses in regard to communication and then develop three strategies that will help you overcome those weaknesses.

Enhancing your communication skills now, while in pharmacy school, could help a patient be more adherent to their medication and it may even save someone’s life.

Dr. Susan Gardner is Assistant Dean for Professional and Student Affairs at the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy.Dr. Gardner

Don’t forget to take the pledge to take your meds at: www.scriptyourfuture.org. Follow tips about medication adherence on Twitter @UCSOP.