Helping Hands: Serving the undeserved communities in Columbus, Ohio

Hello everyone! My name is Rebekah Thomas, and I am finishing up my second year at the College of Pharmacy. With this post, I would like to share one of my favorite volunteer locations: Helping Hands. Helping Hands is housed in an old preschool, with a clinic open to the public every Thursday. It is organized and run by a group of outstanding individuals who recruit volunteers from various disciplines to help with their mission. The healthcare team includes physicians, pharmacists, and nurses that work collaboratively to run stations dedicated to specific tasks like blood sugar, blood pressure, and other forms of screenings.

For this post, I am going to focus on what a pharmacy student would do at Helping Hands. Upon arrival, you’ll probably notice that the rooms are color-coded, as the building was previously a preschool. The pharmacy is stationed with nursing in the Yellow room. You will first meet up and go over introductions with the other students and pharmacists on staff. Once everyone is comfortable with their responsibilities, you can begin your day. The patients are first triaged by nursing, so initial evaluations are conducted by nursing students. Once that is complete, pharmacy students are called back to confirm patient allergies and review any medication lists. We use the clinic software to add, delete, or change any medications. When talking to patients, we asses if the patient is taking their medications correctly and take note of any potential barriers. For example, if the patient is having trouble remembering to take their medications, it is our job to give them tips and suggestions to hopefully better remember. If a patient reports they have stopped taking a particular medication, our responsibility is to figure out and address any potential barriers. We can take notes for the doctor to see so that we can work together to provide the best patient care. But wait, our patient interaction does not stop there!

Once the patient has moved from the nursing and pharmacy station, they will now see the doctor. In most cases, the pharmacy student that reviewed the medication list will follow that patient through the process. We have the opportunity to sit-in while the doctor performs an examination. This is my favorite part! Many of the providers will ask you questions about medications when adjusting the patient’s regimen. Some of the questions require the use of drug information resources, so it is a great learning experience. Once the provider has decided what medications they want to start the patient on, they will print off the scripts and send the patient back to the pharmacy.

The pharmacy has a small formulary, so we can fill some of the medications in house to get the patient started. If we don’t have a medication in stock, the patient can take the prescriptions to their local pharmacy to fill. Any cost-related issues are also addressed at this time. Pharmacy students will count and label the prescriptions we do fill, but they are ultimately checked by the pharmacist and the physician. Because Helping Hands is a clinic, the prescriptions are signed off and checked by the physician instead of the pharmacist, but the pharmacist works closely with us to make sure all of our questions are answered. Once the medications are ready to be handed off to the patient, a pharmacy student will counsel the patient on not only proper administration but will explain to the patient what each medication is for.

The hands-on nature of this clinic is why this is one of my favorite volunteering sites. It is such a great experience to see how other disciplines operate when providing patient care.

Thanks for reading, and I really hope you enjoyed this blog post!

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