URI pharmacy student develops method to improve pain management after surgery

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Wantagh, N.Y. resident to graduate in May

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 28, 2016 – University of Rhode Island doctor of pharmacy student Krystal Memmer has had a love for science since high school.

During her senior year she learned that a pharmacist was more than someone who counted pills. When she started researching pharmacy programs, URI stood out.

“You weren’t just a number,” said Memmer. “The College of Pharmacy is so close knit that it’s like a family, but you still have the University feel. Just recognizing how well established the program is and how it is one of the top pharmacy schools in the country was definitely a driving factor.”

Memmer is now finishing up her sixth year at the University and concluding her final clinical rotation as a pharmacy student. The Wantagh, N.Y. resident will earn her doctor of pharmacy degree in May.

“During your sixth year you have six, six-week rotations in all different areas of pharmacy. You have an ambulatory care rotation, institutional rotation, general medicine rotation and a community rotation. You get a chance to have a taste of everything, which is nice,” said Memmer.

Last summer when Memmer was completing her general medicine rotation in Syosett, N.Y. she was intrigued with the process and techniques used to provide adequate pain control in patients who have undergone total joint arthroplasty.

“The research project came about on my general medicine rotation and it had a focus on orthopedic surgery, which included a lot of total hip and total knee replacements. When I was going through my patients’ files I realized that there was a lot of opportunity for improvement of pain management after they had their surgeries. That’s how the research project developed.”

Prior to a surgery Memmer would meet with a patient, discuss any medications they were on and then go over a realistic pain management goal during their stay at the hospital. Memmer looked at one group of patients first and realized that their pain was not being managed as effectively as it could have been. Over the course of six weeks Memmer observed 40 patients.

Memmer then looked at three different outcomes: mean percentage of pain assessment with appropriate drug administration, mean percentage of time within a patient-specific pain goal and mean percentage of timely reassessment.

“At least every four hours, the patients have to have a pain level recorded on the computer and that was not happening. If they are given medications they have to be reassessed for their pain.”

Memmer’s preceptor, who is a pharmacist, led an educational session for the nursing staff and anyone on the floor who was interested to learn more about pain management, how to document it and what medications to give for different pain levels.

“A month later we looked at another group of patients and there was a significant improvement. We are almost 100 percent for all of our outcomes. Having the pharmacist lead a session for the nurses made them feel a lot more comfortable with providing pain management to the patients. Now we have the visual analog pain scale posted all over the floor and everyone is being assessed uniformly.”

Memmer says the study was a success and can be applied to any facility that has a surgical unit. The greatest improvement was seen in the percentage of appropriate drug administration, which increased from 42 percent to 98 percent after the educational session.

She is now completing her final rotation at Phusion Pharmacy in Coventry, RI before she graduates on May 22. After graduation Memmer will complete a Post Graduate Year 1 (PGY1) residency program at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond, Va. Memmer has a passion for geriatrics and looks forward to serving our nation’s heroes.

This release was written by Caitlin Musselman, a URI Marketing and Communications intern and a public relations and political science major.