There are so many different types of careers within the field of pharmacy—from research and drug development to pharmacy informatics! To learn about some of the more unique career settings in the industry, check out the Novel Pharmacy Practice Settings page—where you can explore these unique career pathways such as integrated health-community paramedicine.
In addition to learning more about unique pathways on-site, you can also understand more about the career paths of these pharmacists here on our blog. Today we’re excited to spotlight Olufunke Sokan, PharmD!
Dr. Sokan works as an advanced practice pharmacist within mobile integrated health-community paramedicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. In this position, she works with patients in the comfort of their homes after being discharged from a hospital setting.
Please describe your novel practice setting. What makes your career path unique?
I practice as an advanced practice pharmacist within a mobile integrated health-community paramedicine (MIH-CP) program. The MIH-CP is a patient-centered program that provides a broad range of health services to high-risk patients in the comfort of their homes after they’ve been discharged from the hospital.
This is a transition of care (TOC) initiative that is unique because it involves a multidisciplinary team—a field team of community paramedics and a remote multidisciplinary operations center (consisting of physicians, nurse practitioners, community health workers, and pharmacists).
It’s unique in its mode of delivery. It utilizes telehealth technologies as a clinical tool in delivering patient-centered care. This has been the case since long before the COVID-19 crisis.
Another unique aspect of this model is that all interprofessional team members can access and document within a universal electronic medical record (EPIC). This empowers care providers with critical patient information. It also improves care coordination and eliminates communication gaps. The pharmacist also plays the role of a trainer. It involves the training of community paramedics in performing some aspects of medication reconciliation.
What led you to this career path? What steps did you take?
I’ve always been passionate about providing care to underserved and disadvantaged populations. My career goal is to help people live healthier lives, improve their overall well-being, and reduce healthcare disparities.
Given that information, it’s no coincidence that I’m the pharmacist within the MIH-CP program that provides care to West Baltimore residents—one of the most medically underserved areas in Maryland.
In my career, I’ve mostly followed my interests and passions. For my current role, I earned a Master’s in Pharmacy from the United Kingdom and a PharmD from Shenandoah University. I also completed a hospital-based residency and then gained experience practicing in the hospital setting, ambulatory care, and psychiatry.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
My day starts with reviewing my patient cases in EPIC and discussing patient cases with pharmacy students and residents. This process includes reviewing patients’ hospital stay notes, discharge summaries, and discharge medications.
Any medication changes found during these reviews are communicated to the PCP and community pharmacist. As the pharmacist, I ensure prescriptions for new medications are sent to pharmacies and that my patients can afford any new medications.
I also spend time connecting with patients throughout the day using new technologies. During video calls with patients, I provide comprehensive medication therapy management. We reconcile medication lists. I counsel the patients on the proper use of medications and answer any patient questions about their medications.
As the pharmacist on this multidisciplinary team, I am also responsible for addressing any barriers/social determinants of health that could negatively impact medication adherence, such as transportation, cost, prior authorizations, etc. I then communicate any discrepancies found and provide recommendations to the patients’ community-based providers to ensure continuity of care.
Describe the most exciting or rewarding aspect of your novel practice role.
The most rewarding aspect of my role is improving medication adherence. By helping patients understand their medication regimens and equipping them with the knowledge they need to successfully self-manage their chronic conditions, I help reduce hospital readmissions.
Describe the most challenging aspect of your role.
The most challenging aspect of my role is listening to heart-breaking stories about how my patients sometimes have to make tough decisions about whether to pay for their medication co-pays or put food on their table. This makes me want to do more for my patients and help them navigate the available resources they might not be aware of.
How can someone learn more about this unique practice setting and the career opportunities it presents for pharmacists?
Joining pharmacy organizations like APhA and ACCP is a good start. These pharmacy organizations have special interest groups (SIG) and practice and research networks (PRNs). You can network with other professionals in similar practice settings and learn about career opportunities.
What advice would you give to a current student pharmacist who is interested in pursuing a similar type of practice role in the future?
My advice would be to obtain some experience by shadowing pharmacists in the practice area you are interested in. It’s also essential to become an active member of student pharmacist organizations. And, finally, don’t forget to network, network, and network!
What general advice would you give to a high school or college student who is interested in pursuing a pharmacy career?
Pharmacy is a great career path to pursue. It’s a diverse field that offers a wide variety of career opportunities. Pharmacists play a critical role in multidisciplinary patient care teams by improving patient outcomes through comprehensive medication management.
If you’re interested in positively impacting individuals and effecting change on a population’s health, then pharmacy is the right path for you.
Share a brief story about a time you had a positive impact on a patient, population, or community in your role as a pharmacist.
I once saw a patient who suffered from multiple chronic conditions, including diabetes. During her hospitalization, her insulin dose was decreased due to episodes of hypoglycemia. This patient received a 30-day supply of insulin before discharge.
When her supply was exhausted, she called in a refill to her retail pharmacy. And when the medication was delivered to her home, she realized the dosage no longer matched her regimen. She called me, and I realized that the retail pharmacy had not been notified of the insulin dose change. I contacted her primary care physician, who sent in a new prescription for the correct dose. The problem was rectified.
Without my intervention, the patient would have received the incorrect dose and been back in the hospital for hypoglycemia. This highlights the importance of TOC pharmacists communicating medication changes made in the hospital to patients’ community-based providers and retail pharmacists.
Start your pharmacy career by exploring pharm4me.org. And connect with Pharm4Me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok! Check out other novel careers like integrated health-community paramedicine on the Novel Pharmacy Practice Settings page.