April 1, 2014

We are excited to share that Mary Rothermal, PharmD’16, was a Top 10 finalist in the National APhA Patient Counseling Competition.

"There were over 120 students competing. We are proud to have such a wonderful representative of our program competing for us," states Associate Dean Nancy Mason. 

Congratulations to Mary on this wonderful accomplishment! 

Learn more about the national competition
Visit our Facebook page to see photos from the event. 

P2 Student, Mary Rothermal, Prepares for National 2014 APhA Patient Counseling Competition

By: Second-year PharmD Student Henry Tran, March 17, 2014

Internships, volunteer work and opportunities to shadow are the areas students usually search first when seeking pharmacy experience, however the College’s annual Patient Counseling Competition provides a unique opportunity as well.

The College of Pharmacy holds a competition each year for students to showcase their best patient counseling skills. Through rigorous training from coursework and experiential education starting in the P1 year, students become prepared to counsel patients with respect and professionalism, while tailoring their method of communication to patient need. Student competitors, P1 through P4 students, bring their A-game to the competition to demonstrate the skills they have learned ranging from nonverbal communication to expressions of empathy. The competition consists of five minutes to review pertinent drug information and five minutes to counsel the patient actor. Effective verbal and nonverbal communication is a crucial skill to have as a health care professional. As the most accessible health care professional, it is essential that pharmacists are trained to demonstrate effective communication throughout their career.

This year, second-year PharmD student, Mary Rothermal, emerged as the top competitor, winning the College’s 2014 Patient Counseling Competition. Her achievement earned her round trip airfare and admission for the March 28-31 APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Orlando, Florida. 

Each participating pharmacy school will send one representative to compete for the national title of the best showcase of patient counseling skills. To prepare for her counseling sessions, Mary runs through a list of drugs and familiarizes herself with pertinent drug information. Memorizing the information isn’t her intention, though, Mary explains. “I never end up memorizing [a transcript of therapeutic information] because during the interaction, it helps me to better focus on the patient. I do not have to worry about what to say next and [it] helps the counseling to be more of a conversation between the patient and me.” 

That’s how Mary plans to prepare for the national competition: focusing her counseling sessions towards her patient’s needs and adjusting her communication so it is most effective for the patient at hand. Even though the patients are actors filling a role, the goal is to make the patient feel comfortable and relaxed during the interaction. Mary explains, “I want to continue to develop my communication skills and pharmacy knowledge so I can continue to ensure I am providing the most complete information about the drug, but also make certain the way I am communicating is very effective.”

Also eager to participate in this unique experience, second-year PharmD student, Emily Jaynes, adds, “The Patient Counseling Competition is a fun way to keep these important clinical skills sharp, and I look forward to participating again next year.”

First-year PharmD student Charlotte Buckley agrees, “The competition is an excellent opportunity to test your communication and time management skills. It makes you think in a structured way to select the most critical information a patient needs to know, while remaining friendly and open to answering their questions.” Both Emily and Charlotte were some of the College’s top performers and both finished in the top 10.

Despite having worked in a community pharmacy for seven years, Mary gains something out of each interaction with her patients. “I attempt to make every interaction meaningful and educational, and I plan to continue to evaluate my counseling skills and look for ways to improve them.”

Mary’s constant search for improvement was clear as she placed among the top competitors of the College, and is on her way to the national competition. To improve on her already stellar performance at the College level, Mary plans to utilize the College’s faculty for tips, and plans to conduct more practice sessions with those closest to her: her family, most notably, her grandmother. Like her family, Mary’s entire pharmacy “phamily” is supporting her as well.