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To the Editor. In their recent article, Goggin et al1 described an exceptional multidisciplinary collaboration allowing third- and fourth-year pharmacy students enrolled in an elective course to develop effective patient-centered counseling skills. This was accomplished through interactive and individualized motivational interviewing training. As pharmacists interface more and more with patients, there is a clearly growing need for “well-designed courses that specifically focus on the development of brief and effective patient-centered counseling skills.”1 A general or elective communications course is not enough. The authors' model should be modified and incorporated into the core curriculum for all pharmacy students because it fosters confident and skilled students, as well as emphasizes the importance of stage of change and patients' confidence in succeeding.
A pharmacist's communication skills are essential to improve the use of medications by patients and ensure optimal therapeutic outcomes; however, current Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) standards2 allow faculty members and students to determine their own experiences. This results in all students having disparate opportunities to develop fully their individual counseling skills. Survey results of faculty members who were teaching communication skills in colleges and schools of pharmacy across the United States found there is a need for better structuring and assessment of communication skill building and experiences; and only 65.2% of the respondents reported covering motivational interviewing concepts in their communication course.3 Furthermore, not only does the current inconsistent instruction of communication techniques need to be addressed, but the deficit of directive, patient-centered counseling styles must be confronted as well. A good start to enhancing and standardizing pharmacist communication skills would be for the ACPE standards to call for incorporating this type of motivational interviewing model into all schools. This would result in consistent and comprehensive training for students.
The motivational interviewing course designed by Goggin and colleagues serves as a model for all colleges and schools of pharmacy to improve students' patient-centered counseling skills and cultivate patient self-efficacy.