RAM may have lasted for only three days, but the impressions and lessons learned from this short experience have certainly impacted my personal and professional development.
My initial impression of the campground was its resemblance to a military base. Each tent on the ground was assigned a task force to address a specific agenda. The attending personnel operated with the objective to deliver the best care possible with a limited supply of resources.
From day one, I quickly learned that flexibility is the key to successful adaptation to this operation. While my primary responsibilities involved providing pharmacy services to the patient and being a supportive member of the interprofessional team, I learned that the execution of these responsibilities took many forms.
I had the opportunity to provide cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure screenings, discuss the implications of the screening results with the patient and family members, and figure out lifestyle and behavioral changes that the patients could integrate into their daily routines in order to meet their blood pressure or cholesterol “goals.” Through the conversations with these individuals, I gained a newfound respect for their perseverance to manage their health care to their best abilities, developed empathy for their life challenges, and accepted those challenges as motivation to find a solution. I learned to become a better listener and advocate for the patient.
One of my most rewarding experiences at RAM was the opportunity to work as a scribe for the medical tent. Physicians, nurse practitioners and social workers from all specialties came together in one “tent” to provide medical care. Individual patient “rooms” were partitioned, using shower curtains.
It was a unique environment to be surrounded by a urologist, nephrologist, gynecologist and family medicine physician in one setting. I was surprised by the physicians’ enthusiasm to have pharmacy as a part of the team. As the scribe, I was able to serve as a liaison between pharmacy and medicine, discuss clinical guidelines affecting a patient’s medical treatment plan and counsel the patient on new medication therapy, non-pharmacological treatment options and lifestyle changes.
In addition, the physicians took me under their wings and taught me how to perform a proper ear exam, auscultate the patient’s lungs and abdomen, and other clinical techniques that supplemented my clinical knowledge. I valued the interprofessional team approach used to assess the patient’s case and develop the treatment plan.
As a soon-to-be-practitioner, my experience at RAM provided me with a soft and hard skill set to become a better pharmacist. I was able to interact with a diverse group of patients and practitioners and learned about ways to approach providing health care in a limited resource environment. This was truly a rewarding experience that further solidifies my decision to pursue a career as a pharmacist serving the underserved community.