Thakur TH, Frey ML, Chewning BA. Evaluating pharmacy student consultations on opioid medication use and discussion of opioid specific risks. Poster presented at the 2019 120th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy; July 2019. Chicago, IL. [abstract] Am J Pharm Educ. 2019; 83(5):1037.

Objective: The primary aim was to assess third year pharmacy students’ entry level verbal and non-verbal communication skills when addressing sensitive topics during opioid consultations with standardized patients. Sensitive topics included describing the medication as an opioid or narcotic, side effects, potential for opioid dependence, and risk of overdose. This assessment was utilized to identify gaps that skills training programs need to address for students and pharmacists.

Methods: Seventy-one students were video-taped consulting with standardized patients receiving a one-month supply of oxycodone for low back pain. The consults were coded quantitatively for what topics students discussed with the patient, terms used, eye contact, and filler words. Coding of video-recording had high inter-rater reliability (kappa 5 0.90).

Results: The majority of pharmacy students discussed common opioid side effects and severe side effects of opioid use, such as respiratory depression. However, only 30% explained to patients that the medication was an opioid or narcotic and only 23% of students initiated a conversation about dependence, addiction, or overdose risk. Students used more filler words when discussing dependence, addiction, or overdose risk as compared to the rest of the consult. Afterwards, students expressed discomfort and the need for additional training and resources for communicating with patients about opioids.

There is a need to expand education within schools and colleges of pharmacy on mechanisms to discuss sensitive information about opioids with patients. This can be achieved by structured lectures and instruction-based labs focusing on communication about pain management with opioid analgesics.

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