Thakur T, Frey M, Chewning B. Pharmacy student opioid consultations with standardized limited English proficiency patients. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2020 Apr;12(4):418-22. doi: 10.1016/j.cptl.2019.12.024.


Introduction: Limited healthcare studies have analyzed communication practices with limited English proficiency (LEP) patients. Empirical literature lacks evidence about LEP patient-pharmacist communication about opioid risks. This study aimed to (1) explore topics discussed in opioid medication consults, (2) assess if students inform patients about dependency and overdose risks associated with opioid use and the manner in which those risks were introduced and discussed, and (3) assess LEP specific communication practices.

Methods: Third-year pharmacy students in a required communications course consulted LEP standardized patients (SPs) who spoke 30% English and 70% non-English language. The SP followed a script simulating an encounter between a pharmacist and patient picking up a new, month long prescription of oxycodone. All consultations were video recorded and quantitatively coded for verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Results: Twenty-three pharmacy students conducted consultations with LEP SPs. The majority of students discussed common side effects, but only a few discussed severe side effects. Four of 23 students named the medication as an "opioid" or "narcotic" and described dependency, overdose, or other opioid specific risks. Students used several filler words, long sentences, and a fast pace. A majority of students used teach back methods to identify patient understanding. Students expressed the need for more structured education and training in providing patient counseling for opioids and communicating with LEP patients.

Conclusions: Pharmacy students lack confidence and skills in communicating with LEP patients regarding opioid-specific risks, suggesting structured training is needed.

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