A Real Eye Opener
Diana Jason , PharmD Candidate 2009
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Prepared during Consumer Health Information Corporation Clerkship
Have you ever gone to the doctor’s office and forgot half of the information you were given?
Healthcare professionals are trained to tell patients how to take their medications correctly. However, stress and anxiety levels can increase in the doctor’s office. This can make it difficult for patients to remember everything that was said. It is suggested for patients to take notes in the doctor’s office, so that they do not forget anything. Patients are also encouraged to ask questions if they do not understand.
Do as I say not As I do
As a student in my last year of pharmacy school, it is easy for me to tell patients about their medicines and what they SHOULD be doing. My whole world flipped upside down when I became the patient. I would like to share a story with you of something that happened to me recently. I learned the hard way, but I hope that patients can learn these lessons through my mistakes.
The Student Pharmacist becomes the Patient
I was at work when my right eye started hurting. I took out my contact lens. After lunch, it became red and swollen. I could not see as well, and I hurried to the nearest clinic. I was told by the nurse that I was to have an eye exam. I asked how I was supposed to have an eye exam when I can’t see! She said she would just go and get the doctor then. I anxiously waited for what seemed like forever. The doctor finally arrived. He examined my eye and told me I had a corneal abrasion from my contact lens.
He gave me a prescription for an eye ointment that contained an antibiotic for the infection as well as something for the pain. When I returned to work about 15 minutes later, I was asked what the doctor told me. I recalled that he said to wash my eyes 3-4 times per day with “ionized water” that I could pick up at the pharmacy. I also said I had a prescription for an eye ointment but could not recall how often or how to use it.
- When I became a patient, my anxiety level went up because I was concerned about my eye and vision. I was in so much pain and so anxious that I could not remember what the doctor told me. I should have been more prepared and realized that this is absolutely normal.
- I should have asked questions when I did not understand the information I was given. I thought the doctor told me to use “ionized water” but he probably said “distilled water.” Ionized water is not even sold in a pharmacy.
- It doesn’t matter how smart you are or what you know. When you become sick, it’s hard to focus on anything besides the pain and wanting to feel better.
- A corneal abrasion results from cutting or scratching the thin, protective outer layer of the eye. In this case, it may have occurred from wearing the contact lens for too long.
- I had not been taught yet how to administer eye ointments. I should have asked either the doctor or pharmacist. These are the instructions:
1. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after using this medicine.
2. Remove the protective cap.
3. Tilt your head back slightly and pull your lower eyelid down with your index finger to form a pouch.
4. Using your other hand, place the tube as near as possible to your eyelid. Do NOT touch the tip of the ointment tube to the eye because bacteria from the skin could enter the ointment tube.
5. Squeeze the end of the tube to apply a thin layer of the ointment to the pouch made by the lower lid and the eye. A ½ inch strip of ointment usually is enough.
6. Close the eye gently for 1-2 minutes to allow the medication to be absorbed.
7. Replace and tighten the cap right away.
8. Wipe off any excess ointment from your eyelids and lashes with a clean tissue.
9. This medicine may cause blurred vision when you first put it in your eye . Do NOT drive or do anything else that might be dangerous unless you can see clearly.
Applying the Lessons Learned
When you are feeling sick, it can be hard to remember what the doctor said. Here are some tips if you ever find yourself in a situation like mine:
- Ask for written instructions. They will come in handy when you arrive home and cannot remember the instructions you were given.
- Ask for patient handouts about your condition or medications.
- Have all your prescriptions filled by one pharmacy. This is the only way your pharmacist can check to make sure all your prescription drugs do not interact with each other. You will also get to know your pharmacist better and feel comfortable asking more questions.
- Make sure that the pharmacist explains what the medicine you are receiving is used to treat, how to take it and what side effects it may cause.
- Bring along a family member or friend. If you miss something the doctor said, they can help you recall.
Remember that prescription medicines cannot work unless you take them correctly. Follow the above strategies and always feel free to ask your pharmacist if you have any questions. Do not be embarrassed if you forget what was said in the doctor’s office. Even student pharmacists occasionally do that.
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