Be a Model for Teaching Student Pharmacists to Hear Their Patients

Pharmacist Michelle Jeon (right) educates a pharmacy resident in the vaccination room at Walgreens Pharmacy in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Correcting misconceptions and learned misinformation about the vaccine has been unusually difficult. When patients receive standard medication counseling, they typically present to the pharmacist with a blank slate and an open mind,” said Michelle Jeon, PharmD, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy (UHSP) in St. Louis, Missouri. “It’s much easier to provide education in that perspective compared to instances when a patient preemptively comes to you and says they believe the [COVID-19] vaccine incorrectly causes infertility.”

Although pharmacists are challenged to help people unlearn misinformation, these experiences allow Jeon to provide invaluable opportunities for student pharmacists to learn how to vaccinate patients in the real world. “We have a lot of student pharmacists that are looking for opportunities to learn and practice their skills by educating, counseling, and immunizing patients,” said Jeon.

The diversity of the patient population also adds to her student’s learning experience. In the heart of St. Louis, many community members are socioeconomically disadvantaged minorities—about half are Black and have limited access to transportation—while others in the community, such as graduate students and medical center workers, have high health literacy.

As part of her academic responsibilities, Jeon has been spending half of her professional time with Walgreens Pharmacy in the community setting, where she has been meeting and vaccinating different groups of people. “I’ve trained our students and pharmacy residents in administering vaccines from our mobile clinics. We’ve also reached out to long-term care facilities to schedule dates and times to vaccinate their community residents, staff, and employees,” she said.

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Be an example for your students and show them how to effectively connect with patients. They will learn from watching, and, most of all, immersing themselves in their communities to help with the fight against COVID-19.

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Additionally, Jeon organized initial, large, community-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics on UHSP campus. “I reached out to my community contacts from off-site flu clinics that I ran in the past,” she said. “I also contacted independent living facilities, where I had given past educational sessions to let their residents, support groups, and others know about the future clinics. Community organizations helped to spread the word as well.”

A patient at one of these clinics who had received her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine a few months prior was very concerned about getting the second dose. “The patient felt that she was going to have more severe side effects with the second dose,” said Jeon. This was based on hearing other people’s experiences, which caused the patient to lose confidence in the vaccine between the first and second dose.

“Every time I spoke with her about her medications, about once every week or so, I would always bring up the benefits of receiving the vaccine because she had a lot of frustrations related to wearing masks and not being able to go to her YMCA community and group activities,” Jeon said.

Continuous contact, open conversations, and finding her patient’s motivators gave Jeon an opportunity to provide her patient with information to reassure her that the second dose is safe.

After several weeks, Jeon was able to convince the patient to get her second dose confidently.

By being a role model for her students and giving them experience on the front lines to help vaccinate and counsel patients, Jeon’s efforts have led to approximately 4,300 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to community members through the University and Walgreens.

Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence and learn how to address patient concerns about COVID-19 vaccine and reproduction.