Thakur T, Frey M, Chewning B. Evaluating pharmacy student consultations with standardized patients on opioid medication use and opioid-specific risks. Am J Pharm Educ. 2019 Dec;83(10):7494. doi: 10.5688/ajpe7494.


Objective: To assess third-year pharmacy students' entry-level verbal and nonverbal communication skills when addressing sensitive topics during opioid consultations with standardized patients.

Methods:  Seventy-one students were video-taped while consulting with standardized patients who were receiving a one-month supply of oxycodone for lower back pain. Consults were coded quantitatively for the topics students discussed with the patient, terms used, eye contact, and filler words.

Results:: The majority of pharmacy students discussed common and severe opioid side effects, such as respiratory depression. However, only 30% explained that the medication being dispensed was an opioid or narcotic, and only 23% of students initiated a conversation regarding 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.

Conclusion: Many students lacked confidence with regards to educating patients about opioid-specific risks. This necessitates expanding education regarding discussing sensitive information about opioids at this school of pharmacy. Other schools of pharmacy would benefit from an evaluation of their curriculum to assess the necessity for additional education and training.

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