October is American Pharmacists Month, so I sat down with a pharmacist of 24 years who is passionate about patient care and counseling in pharmacy and the impact they can make on individual and community health.
Jennifer Murff, RPh, became a registered pharmacist in 1996, after graduating from The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Pharmacy. She spent 12 years working as a managing pharmacist in community and retail pharmacy settings before spending the following years of her career in the managed care setting. Though her role has shifted its focus from direct patient care, she remains enthusiastic about the pharmacist’s unique approach to patient care.
Nicki Goedecke: If you had anything to say to a current pharmacy student, what would it be?
Jennifer Murff: Your future job is incredibly important. You are there to make sure that every prescription you dispense is the right amount of the right drug, at the right time, for the right person. You also have the opportunity to help improve a patient’s health and well-being through building trust relationships and counseling. There are so many ways that a retail pharmacist can positively impact patient care and outcomes. It’s an extra-special aspect to patient care.
NG: How does patient care factor in to the pharmacist’s everyday routine?
JM: Pharmacists have the opportunity to do more than just dispense drugs. Pharmacists can partner with primary care providers, encouraging and teaching preventive care, identifying patient risk patterns, and working with the patient and their primary care provider to establish effective treatment goals and improve outcomes. Pharmacists can administer vaccines at the local pharmacy, increasing access to the overall population, as well as identifying those patients for whom vaccination is critical.
NG: What makes patient care in the pharmacy setting unique?
JM: The pharmacist is the most accessible healthcare professional. Part of that is because there are so many pharmacies located in convenient locations, and part of that is because a patient can walk up to a retail pharmacy window and ask a question without scheduling an appointment. Pharmacists can have a big positive impact if they want to.
NG: How can a pharmacist take advantage of this opportunity?
JM: The pharmacist has to be proactive – it can be easy to fall in the that trap of just going in and filling your prescriptions and counseling only those who ask for it. But looking for those patients who you could talk to about their health and make recommendations to – that’s how you really make a difference.
Pharmacists also need to be part of the broader discussion of policies and changes that affect healthcare and the wellbeing of their communities. I encourage pharmacists to get involved in those discussions, because they are on the ground and have firsthand knowledge of a lot of what is discussed in policy-making, and their perspectives are unique and important.
NG: This sounds like it’s connected with Community Health – is it?
JM: Yes, absolutely. As pharmacists, we should be asking ourselves: “Are we creating a healthier populace? Do we need to focus more on prevention? What are we seeing a lot of in our community, and how could we help address that?” Sometimes the answer is not prescribing more drugs – sometimes there needs to be broad health changes in diet and lifestyle, and pharmacists can be a part of that as well. That’s where patient education can come in; there’s a lot of good info that pharmacists can share with patients.
NG: How do you think pharmacy instructors could bring more awareness about the patient care aspect of pharmacy into the classroom?
JM: Instructors can teach the importance of patient care by demonstrating the relevance and the impact pharmacists have in patient care – and this can be taught in every class, every setting. Whether in a biochemistry class or a clinical rotation, instructors can teach the significance of the role. The pharmacist has the unique role of having specialized knowledge that they can share with both patients and practitioners; knowledge that is useful, effective and accessible; knowledge that can increase positive outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. And the value pharmacists can bring to health care can be taught in every class.
For example, in a class teaching about the chemistry or pharmacokinetics of drugs the instructor could impress on the students the need to counsel adherence – the importance of knowing and understanding and being able to teach the patient how long it’ll take for a medication to demonstrate effectiveness, and how missing even one dose can impact therapy. All the aspects of the chemistry behind the medicine are relevant to patient care.
Jennifer Murff, RPh, is the Account Manager for Clinical Programs with Optum, a United Healthcare Group Company. She has 24 years of experience as a Registered Pharmacist in both retail and community pharmacies and managed care settings. (Editor’s note and full disclosure: Jennifer Murff is Nicki Goedecke’s mother). Nicki Goedecke is a Marketing Coordinator at Pocket Nurse.