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Face-To-Face: Palmetto Poison Center program impacts lives by teaching medication safety

Posted on: January 10, 2020

Pharmacists understand that as their patients get older, it can become difficult for them to understand when and how they should take their prescribed medications, and the more medicines that are prescribed, the greater the opportunity for a medication error to occur.

That is where the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy Palmetto Poison Center plays a significant role in safety.

For seven years, the Senior Medication Safety program has been in the community serving our older citizens of South Carolina. Palmetto Poison Center Education Coordinator Christina DeRienzo makes more than 40 presentations annually, crisscrossing the state on a weekly basis, providing medicine safety tips and awareness education as part of the college’s outreach program.

“The program actually started as a service-learning project for pharmacy students,” DeRienzo says. “It eventually evolved into an ongoing program that has now educated thousands of people over the years.”

The goal of the program is to avoid medication errors by helping seniors understand potential drug interactions, how to understand prescription labels, and how to safely use herbal supplements. She also discusses the importance of keeping a list of all medications and supplements and how to avoid medication errors.

Their pharmacist can be one of the most integral members of the health team ...

One of the most important messages that Christina shares is the need for good communication with health care providers and pharmacists.

“Their pharmacist can be one of the most integral members of the health team,” she says. “Finding a pharmacist they are comfortable speaking with helps the pharmacist understand their patient’s individual needs.”

DeRienzo also encourages her audience to understand the role the pharmacist can have with them in providing another level of health care.

“The pharmacist will catch potential interactions and they can have a conversation with your physician to discuss this problem or even to help find a less expensive alternative to a medicine,” she says.

While these messages are important for everyone to hear, DeRienzo also understands the need for interaction with ‘her people’ as they are affectionately known.

“Because I have the opportunity to see some of these folks on a regular basis, I begin to see their need for interaction and that they really want someone to spend time with them and talk to them,” she says. “They crave that human interaction.”

And DeRienzo’s talks give participants an opportunity to learn from each other. “When they share their stories about a medication mishap, others begin to share their stories. They know that people are listening and care about their well-being,” she says.

The program also has a significant impact on students who rotate through the Palmetto Poison Center. They often accompany DeRienzo to presentations where they learn the significance of volunteering, especially in underserved communities.

“Many of them have never seen someone who is truly in need, and it is an eye-opening experience for them. That’s when they understand that what they are doing really matters and is making a difference in people’s quality of life,” DeRienzo says.


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