Students Learn About Pharmacy Practice in Portugal

This spring eight students spent two weeks in Portugal as part of an elective course to compare and contrast pharmacist-provided healthcare delivery between Portugal and the United States, and identify best practices in both countries to improve pharmacy practice and patient care.

PortugalThe group visited community and hospital pharmacies, pharma, and many pharmacy organizations including the agency that helped develop Portugal’s drug policies, including decriminalizing personal use of drugs in 2001.

“One point that I found particularly interesting was the drastic contrast in pharmacists’ roles in community versus hospital pharmacies in Portugal when compared to the United States,” said third–year student Kaylee Clark. “Portuguese community pharmacies are able to offer a longitudinal healthcare experience for patients, by offering services that only a physician can provide in the United States. For example, at one of the community pharmacies we visited, there was a pharmacist who had experience and training in skincare, so she was able to offer dermatological consultations. In addition, there is a private room where pharmacists are able to provide diabetes education, perform blood pressure, A1c, cholesterol testing and a variety of other point-of-care testing. The data collected is sent directly to patient providers, which eliminates the need for additional clinic appointments.”

Portuguese community pharmacies are able to offer a longitudinal healthcare experience for patients, by offering services that only a physician can provide in the United States

While Portuguese pharmacists also provide extensive education on disease prevention, Clark says there is an opportunity for Portugal to utilize their pharmacists more in the hospital setting.

“It was unexpected to hear how different the hospital pharmacists’ responsibilities are in Portugal compared to the United States,” said Clark. “In Portugal, there is little clinical knowledge and autonomy for pharmacists working in hospital pharmacy. The pharmacists are rarely on the hospital floors and are primarily in the central pharmacy verifying orders. Whereas in the U.S., hospital pharmacists are making clinical decisions all day, working side by side with the healthcare team to provide their expert recommendation on medications.”

Clark says her experience in Portugal enabled her to keep an open mind when it comes to change and new ideas that could move pharmacy forward.

“I personally think it is important for all pharmacy students to have a similar international experience because it offers a unique perspective and opportunity to explore a new culture,” she said. “I previously had never left the United States, so the chance to visit Portugal was so eye-opening. I gained a new outlook on the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists.”

In addition to Clark, other students who participated in the elective were Cristina Guimaraes, Lexy McGauvran, Lauren Ostlund, Lexy Petrick, Larissa Voss, Michaela Wermers and Julia Wiemer. Jason Varin served as course director.