January 23, 2012

Pharmacy students impress judges with clinical knowledge at New Orleans competition

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Holding their first place trophies, Stephanie Friedman and Linda Lei (left to right) are seated in front of UW students attending the ASHP conference.

In the Clinical Skills Competition, two-person teams of pharmacy students are given a patient case that reflects actual scenarios that hospital pharmacist’s may encounter. They have two hours to identify acute and chronic medical problems and develop a pharmacists care plan. The teams who make it to the top ten at the national level also give a presentation justifying their therapy recommendations to a panel of judges.

Participants must possess knowledge in clinical pharmacology, therapeutics, medical terminology and basic pharmacokinetics principles, among other things. They can use some reference materials in the competition.

Friedman and Lei, both fourth-year pharmacy students, represented the UW after winning the local ASHP competition this past fall. They competed against seventeen UW teams at the local level.

The case the teams were given at the New Orleans meeting involved a 34-weeks-pregnant woman with prior miscarriage. She had high blood pressure and protein in the urine, a pregnancy complication called preeclampsia. Her blood tests showed she had elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count and a breakdown of red blood cells.

“The only effective treatment in this case would be delivery of the baby,” said Friedman. “But we were asked to manage her condition pending a Cesarean section. The patient also had a number of co-morbidities [other health problems], including asthma and history of depression, which we also managed.”

The care plan the UW team created was five pages long. Among its recommendations: give the patient an infusion of the blood pressure medication labetalol, a magnesium infusion to prevent seizures, and a pain management regimen.

Friedman and Lei received the highest scores for the accuracy, relevance and completeness of their patient care plan as well as for the strength of their presentation.

“We had prepared extensively and were confident in our recommendations,” said Friedman, “but it was still surreal hearing our names called as the national winners.”

The second and third place honors at the ASHP meeting went to a team from Harding University in Arkansas and Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, respectively. This year’s clinical skills competition was the largest that the ASHP had held in its sixteen years.

For their first place win, Friedman and Lei took home a number of prizes, including $500, an individual trophy and a large trophy for the UW School of Pharmacy to display.

“I think we both learned a tremendous amount in preparation for the competition, helping us further refine our critical thinking skills,” said Lei. “The process of working through a complex clinical case is a very valuable and fun experience.”

When she and Friedman receive their Doctor of Pharmacy degrees this June, they both hope to enter a pharmacy practice residency program. Friedman’s long-term goal is to work in critical care at a teaching hospital; Lei’s is to specialize in critical care or infectious disease.

ASHP is a 35,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. ASHP has a long history of improving medication use and enhancing patient safety.