Turning Point Peer Mentors Meet with Student Pharmacists

News item posted: 17 April 2014

Recently Peer Mentors from the Wiltshire Substance Misuse Service met with University of Bath Pharmacy students.

The session took place as part of the students' 'Pharmaceutical Care of Drug Users', a 12 week course which fourth year pharmacy students can choose to study in the last semester of their degree. Although the course is optional, over half of the year group usually choose this course, an indication of how relevant they see it to their future practice. The aim of the course is to give the students a sound grounding in the care of people with drug and alcohol issues as community pharmacists play a vital role this care.

Jenny Scott, who is the lead pharmacist at health and social care organisation, Turning Point, and a senior lecturer in Pharmacy at The University of Bath said;

"In order to be able to deliver services that meet the needs of people with drug and alcohol issues, it is vital that pharmacists understand treatment from their perspective. Such an understanding cannot be gained from text books or lectures from academic staff. I chose to include peer mentors and service users in this course as active participants because they are experts in their own experience."

Jenny continued, "Students need to understand that stereotypes of drug users gained from the media are often far from the truth and need to be able to step into the service user's shoes in order to deliver the highest possible quality care. Only a person with direct experience of what it is like to use pharmacy services can deliver these important messages to our future pharmacists."

Feedback from the students about the session was overwhelmingly positive with many describing it as "invaluable".

One fourth year student, Yuvika, who attended the session said that it was "very interesting and informative."

"It helped me look at things from a different perspective. I applaud their courage as it can be very daunting to sit in front a bunch of students and talk about something that has had a major impact on their life. It was great to hear about their experiences, views and expectations and also talk about different situations from their and a pharmacist's point of view. Understanding all these things makes me feel more prepared to offer excellent care to services users in the future."

Shona, one of the Peer Mentors who attended the session said;

"Despite my initial anxiety about talking to a room full of students I thought it went very well. As a group I felt that we got a clear message across to the prospective pharmacists. We all had different experiences to relate which made it interesting and varied. I found it informative hearing the pharmacists perspective to which I confess I'd never really given much thought.

At the end it was gratifying to hear that the students also found it educational and interesting. I like the idea that for future generations of service/pharmacy users a more enlightened group of pharmacists will be on hand!"

Mike Huck, Peer Mentor & volunteer coordinator for Wiltshire Substance Misuse Service added;

"Peer Mentors have lived experience of substance misuse and opiate substitute medication such as methadone and buprenorphine. They understand the stigma associated with it. Working with the students at the University of Bath has been a great opportunity for Peer Mentors to use their experiences to inform the practice of professionals working with people in the community who are receiving treatment to help them become drug free."