School of Pharmacy Class of 2020 Reflects on COVID-19

The Class of 2020 is graduating in unprecedented times — but for the most recent alumni of the Pacific University School of Pharmacy, the COVID-19 pandemic is further proof of the importance of their healthcare education.

We asked members of the Class of 2020 to share their experiences as pharmacists-in-training during the pandemic. Their responses were inspiring to us in the School of Pharmacy, and we hope will be inspiring to our alumni, friends and future students. We are all in this together — 6 feet apart.

“Not only have I been working in the hospital on my last APPE rotation, but I have also been working in a community pharmacy on the weekends. In a time with a lot of unknowns, patients can look to the pharmacist and know that they will be there no matter what to make sure they receive the best care possible. I have seen firsthand how thankful patients and staff are that the pharmacy is there to support them through these hard times; it seems to have really humbled a lot of people. At least twice a day someone thanks the pharmacy staff for all of their help and for continuing to work through this pandemic. Pharmacy, of course, plays an important role in managing medications, but it goes far beyond that, filling in gaps when doctors and nurses are needed elsewhere, and I'm proud to be a part of that.”  
— Latisha 

“The recent COVID pandemic has highlighted the essential role of pharmacists in the healthcare system. I have worked alongside unwavering technicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers to transition to telemedicine and to offer roadside medication pickups in an effort to continue providing high-quality clinical services while protecting our most at-risk patients. My involvement with many outreach opportunities offered at Pacific has helped develop a stronger sense of responsibility to the community I serve. Pharmacists are frontline healthcare workers in this pandemic, and I am proud to have been able to provide excellent care and services to my community in this time of need.”
— Jeffrey

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I learned that adapting to new changes is very important. My APPE 7 block was the most impactful to me, because I had constant patient interaction and it was the start of the changes in Oregon. I was at a community site where we had to adjust to meet COVID-19 regulations, such as sanitizing the patient counters every hour and wearing face masks and gloves throughout the day. This site was also next to an urgent care that was turning into a COVID testing center. We also had to keep up with current updates of the pandemic to ensure we were telling the patients the correct information and Pacific has taught me where to find the right resources. In the midst of the pandemic, I made sure to converse with patients in a calm and reassuring manner. Honestly, I adapted to these changes fairly quickly, because I knew there was no time to hesitate in order to ensure the safety for our patients. I am confident that this situation has prepared me to work in the frontlines after I graduate.”

"While fulfilling my duties as an intern behind the pharmacy counter, I watched as the world changed as rapidly as the evolving pandemic. The business casual clothing I would wear to my site each day for most of the last year was now covered by a gown, gloves, a surgical procedure mask, and a face shield. Was I worried? Yes, definitely so. But I’ll tell you this — I have never been prouder than I am right now to be a healthcare professional. The skills and education I developed in the pharmacy program at Pacific had prepared me to adapt and lead during any situation. Because of the support I could give to our patients and the rest of the pharmacy team, a situation that would have been overwhelming, was manageable. Because of the investments I made in my education at Pacific, hundreds more patients were able to access expert advice and medications during a critical time when every person counts. We, as pharmacy students and pharmacists, are leaders in a cornerstone segment of healthcare, and for many, the calm in the storm."

“Two of the most important lessons I've learned in pharmacy school, specifically during the last year of rotations, are to stay adaptable and to constantly seek opportunities to deepen my knowledge in pharmacy practice. Both proved to be useful in my last rotation of pharmacy school. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my last rotation was changed to non-patient facing in a mail order pharmacy days before it was to start. While I have never considered mail order as a career path, I was still eager to understand this version of pharmacy practice. In the last six weeks I have been in awe of the people that work at this facility and their commitment to patient care. Although these pharmacists and technicians do not directly interact with patients face to face, they are committed to meet patient needs by ensuring medications are accurate and delivered on time each and every day. Due to the pandemic, mail order pharmacy experienced a massive production increase of ~75% and admirably the staff rose to meet this challenge. Every pharmacist and technician I worked with throughout the pandemic was volunteering to show up early, and stay late, to help ensure all patients received their medications in the expected time frame. As this rotation comes to a close, I will walk away knowing that I chose a very noble profession, with people so earnestly motivated to rise to the challenge of taking care of all patients no matter the circumstances. My advice to new future pharmacists taking the first steps in their journey: be adaptable and always look for opportunities to learn more.”

“In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, time stood still for so many, but it didn't for us. At my final clinical site, a rural critical access hospital on the coast of Oregon, our pharmacy team showed up every day because our patients did. My professors, mentors, and support staff at PUSOP have all been here to support me and ensure that the learning would not stop either. There is so much that has come out of this pandemic: fear, isolation, loss. But there has also been growth, comradery, empathy and purpose. We truly are making a difference.”

“During my current and most recent APPEs of direct patient care, we are providing essential lab monitoring to those who would now be associated with a higher risk were they to come in contact with the novel coronavirus. My education here at Pacific University has taught me how to effectively be a leader in my community and be as prepared as anyone could be for a pandemic. As a healthcare worker, not only are we there to help their overall wellbeing in regards to clinically, but we are dedicated to ensuring that our patients feel safe under our care and build trust. In fact, I've helped set up a drive-up INR testing clinic at this hospital in order to comply both with CDC recommendations of social distancing, as well as patient preference to not enter the hospital due to the associated risks. We are living in uncertain times and despite what our job description says in regards to being a student and a soon to be practitioner, we've taken the oath to ensure we go above and beyond to provide care for those who need it most as a public health servant.”

“I always knew my last APPE block rotation was going to be special, it was the last chapter of my three-year journey through pharmacy school, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be like this. At first, I did not know if I was even going to have it, everything was getting canceled and I was nervous and anxious with all the uncertainty. But through all of this, the one thing that kept me focused and helped provide relief from everything going on in the world, was continuing to go to site. I got to witness teamwork between different healthcare occupations like never before, coming together to help those in need and meeting the daily and ever-changing challenges that arose. Working with my preceptors and fellow frontline healthcare workers and seeing them come in, day in and day out, despite possibly putting themselves at risk, encouraged me to want to follow their example and continue to help and do my part as a fellow healthcare worker. Seeing the appreciation from the patients, for remaining open and being able to provide care, allowed me to feel that I was truly making a difference, I was helping save lives, and lastly reminded me why I wanted to be a pharmacist. This rotation has truly been one to remember, but one that has allowed me realize that I can rise to the occasion in a time of crisis.”

Monday, May 18, 2020