Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Nordic Pharmacy Schools' Experience in Communication Skills Training

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Nordic Pharmacy Schools' Experience in Communication Skills Training

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Efficient pharmacist-patient communication about medicines improves patient's adherence to medicines, increases patient's quality of life and drug knowledge, and clarifies misunderstandings around medicine use. (1-4) However, studies from community pharmacies worldwide found patients receiving limited counseling with many not receiving any counseling at all, pharmacists using inappropriate questioning techniques, and patients receiving a patient centered-care that is not optimal. (5,6) In the Nordic setting, studies report of a similar pattern. Swedish researchers found that 50% of the dispensing encounters between pharmacists and patients lasted for only 10 seconds or less when it came to medical issues. (7) In Denmark, 26% of the pharmacist-patient encounters had no communication about the medicines at all. (8) Norwegian patients reported only being informed about the use of medicines in 50% of the cases. (9,10) In Iceland, pharmacists seldom gave patients evidence-based information. (11) Finnish studies on counseling found communication rates between 18% and 80%, depending on the kind of medicine dispensed, and patients reported being counseled in 46% of their visits. (12-14) Thus, the public, regulators/policymakers, and Nordic pharmacy educators have strong reasons to develop and strengthen pharmacy students' patient communication skills.

Examples of communication skills are asking questions, actively listening, empathizing and explaining. (15,16) Patient communication skills training, ie, types of training to develop necessary skills for communication, influence the quality and outcomes of health care professionals' patient encounters. (17) A health care professional's communication skills are not only a matter of common sense or personality traits, rather, they are skills that can be taught and learned. (17-19) The pharmacy education is an important factor influencing pharmacist-patient communication. (20) According to the World Health Organization, the International Pharmaceutical Federation and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, pharmacy schools should prepare student pharmacists for their future professional life as counselors. (21,22) The European Union (EU) lists two counseling requirements in their directive of professional qualifications. The EU requires a pharmacist trained and working in the EU to be able to "provide information and advice on medicinal products as such, including on their appropriate use" (Article 45); "give personalized support for patients who administer their medication" (Article 45); and requires pharmacists to complete six months of training or pharmacy practice experience (PPE) in a hospital or community pharmacy (Article 44). (23) Personalized support for medicine use is in line with a global trend in pharmacy practice with an increased focus toward new and intensified ways of using pharmacists' clinical and pharmacotherapeutic knowledge in the delivery of cognitive health care services; also, in such services, good communication skills are vital.

Traditionally, and still in many parts of the world, pharmacy education curricula have a strong focus on natural science (24,25) and are designed to support the role of developing, manufacturing and distributing medicines, rather than on social science and on the anticipated future role of pharmacists as clinical counselors. Nevertheless, pharmacy schools worldwide have implemented patient communication courses in their curriculum to increase students' competence in this field. (26-31) Studies in North America, United Kingdom and Ireland have attempted to describe the overall curriculum content. (27-31) In 1986, the varying levels of involvement from schools in communication skills training and an unstructured approach toward teaching those skills were shown in the United Kingdom and Ireland. (27) Similar results were found in the United States in 1990 with large variations of content, teaching methods and time devoted to patient communication skills training. …

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