Pharmacy intern Brent Knowlton’s work includes taking the blood pressure of employees who participate in the hospital wellness program, which he demonstrates here on Pharmacy Tech Robert Burchfield. (Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum)
COVINGTON — Brent Knowlton is getting hands-on experience working with patients before he graduates from the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy in May.
Knowlton is wrapping up his five-week internship at Newton Medical Center and said his experience “reinforces the fact that everything isn’t like it is in the textbook. Every patient is different.” Knowlton said he’s learned to adjust his demeanor to suit the patient’s style of interacting, whether more formal or casual, and to address concerns about medication and health goals.
Though the internship program has been around for about a decade, there has recently been more emphasis on patient interaction, with the implementation of employee wellness and congestive heart failure programs that the interns help run.
“The pharmacy profession is changing from somebody who’s in the back of the drugstore and counts pills … to becoming an active participant in the healthcare of a patient, whether in the community or in the hospital,” said Dr. Robert Halliday, director of pharmacy at Newton Medical. “Pharmacists now are on the floor and they’re interacting with physicians and patients to make sure they understand their medications.”
That’s especially important because Halliday said 50 or more percent of admissions are the result of patients not taking medications correctly.
In an effort to reduce readmissions and assist patients with improving their health after discharge, Halliday and Dr. Donna Groover created the Congestive Heart Failure Program. Halliday said the program, which started in August, is designed “to try to get people to understand their condition and how to not let it deteriorate further, and stay out of the hospital.”
Interns visit patients before they leave the hospital to discuss treatment and call them once home to make sure they are taking their medications. Eventually the program will be expanded to cover other conditions, like pneumonia, he said. Patients are often not informed of how to treat their diseases and the goal is to change that, Halliday said.
In addition, he noted, Medicare and Medicaid will no longer cover patients with certain conditions, including congestive heart failure, who are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of their last stay.
The wellness program, initiated a year ago, also gives interns lots of patient interaction, but in this case the patients are also hospital employees.
Twice a year, employees with hypertension, diabetes and other conditions set up wellness visits with the resident pharmacy intern to discuss health goals and concerns and taking medication properly. More than 200 employees participate. The program is modeled after the Healthy Dawgs program at the University of Georgia.
The internship program has between one and three students from the state’s four pharmacy schools on rotations 50 weeks a year. Students from out-of-state schools have also participated .