When I first graduated as a pharmacist I joined the organizations, subscribed to the magazines and made every effort to plow through them and keep current with continuing education. Obviously, it is very important -- and not just because CE is required to stay licensed, but to do our job responsibly. I went to the day-long CE events in the hotel ballrooms and convention centers, and the dinners, and the luncheons, and all that.
Gradually I lost interest in a lot of those things --- not because I don't want to learn anything, but because I began to realize how little I was getting out of them. I would plod through some long article and an hour later not remember a single thing I had read. Nothing was relevant to those of us who work not in academia, not in research, but on the front lines of pharmacy. I would sign up to attend a lecture on, say, "Recent Advances in the Treatment of Asthma." I would think great! --- I need to get a little refresher on some of the new inhaled medications and what distinguishes them from each other in practical terms. But alas, what I got was someone who spent 45 minutes reviewing the causes and epidemiology of asthma, which by now we've all heard a hundred times. Then the speaker would realize they were running out of time and hurriedly throw up a slide listing all the classes of asthma drugs, their brand names and refer me to some handout which was no more helpful than any textbook, and bye-bye I'm out of here. Well, I didn't need to waste a Saturday on this.
I can't tell you how disappointing most of these things are to me. No prescriber has ever called and asked me to explain what causes asthma. What they want to know is, "Can you suggest something for my patient who has failed on this-this and this?" or "Which product do you think is easiest to use?" Or, "we need help figuring out some devices to get this recalcitrant 4-year old to use an inhaler."
I know the problem with most of these CE lessons is they have to be objective and not exhibit commercial 'bias.' That's too bad, because I think some kind of bias is what we need. I truly appreciate it when a speaker can relay their own practical experience to me.
Of course I can evaluate it in the scope of my own experience. But the things I remember most are when, say, a pediatrician says "New Liquid Medication X works great and is low-cost, but I NEVER prescribe it because my patients simply won't take it -- it tastes that bad." Now, that helps me. That's something I can USE. I am always desperate for those tips, insider experience, or 'pearls' as we used to call them.
What made me write this post was deciding to give it another shot yesterday and read an article in one of those pharmacy magazines. It didn't go well. One of the articles was on Medication Therapy Management (which used to be called patient counseling, then profile review, then pharmaceutical care -- but that's another story). Another article was on the well-worn topic, "Selecting A Blood Glucose Meter." OK, great, I'm always looking for tips there. It turned out to be a pretty short article:
"A blood glucose meter is an essential tool.... patient should use....blah blah.
Yup, got that.
"Pharmacists play an essential role... selection of meter... key features.. blah blah.
Yup, that's why I'm reading this. Please continue.
"Key features that may be considered.... sample size....alternate testing sites....portability..... memory options.... blah blah.
OK, we're getting closer. Let's get down to brass tacks. Names, specifics please.
"After a meter has been selected, it is important that the patient understand...."
WAIT A MINUTE, THAT'S IT?? WE'RE DONE?? Didn't we skip over the whole 'selection' part? Oh, I see you've ended by providing me with a nice list of all the names of blood glucose meters. Well gee, so that's what all those crazy things are on my pharmacy shelves. Thanks a whole lot.
Well, I'm still searching for the ultimate CE .... good ol' Pharmacists Letter will have to be my lifeline for awhile longer. And no way am I picking up one of those magazines, unless I'm on the cover.