Pharmacists' cultural competency training promoted in Ohio bill

Under Senate Bill 60, the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy would be required to approve one or more continuing education courses addressing cultural competency in healthcare treatment.

Key Points

A bill recently proposed by an Ohio state senator has rekindled debate on how healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, should receive training in cultural competency.

Under Senate Bill 60, the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy would be required to approve one or more continuing education courses addressing cultural competency in healthcare treatment, according to state Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), the bill's sponsor.

"The board may approve courses that are included within continuing education programs certified by professional associations or similar entities," Sen. Tavares said. "The course or courses selected should include instruction in addressing the problems of race, ethnicity, and gender-based disparities in healthcare treatment decisions."

If the bill becomes law, when their licenses are up for renewal, pharmacists will have to take cultural competency classes/training based on the standard set by the State Board of Pharmacy, said Sen. Tavares. The board would also determine the number of hours of cultural competency classes/ training that pharmacists must complete.

While there seems to be agreement within the pharmacy profession that cultural competency instruction is an important part of a pharmacist's education, there is a sense that it may be unnecessary for states to mandate it.

"I'm not convinced that reading a book or an article about cultural competency is going to make you culturally competent," said Timothy Benedict, RPh, assistant executive director/compliance administrator, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy.

Benedict believes that the interaction pharmacists establish with their patients is what is important in providing good healthcare. He adds that the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy has yet to take a position on S.B. 60.

Do some foundation learning

Whatever the course taken by S.B. 60 and other bills similar to it throughout the country, pharmacists can do much on their own to develop cultural competency.

"The thing I would recommend to pharmacists is to do some foundation learning," said Ann Zweber, BS Pharm, RPh, senior instructor, department of pharmacy practice, College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University, Corvallis. "The most important thing is learning about the cultures of the patients you serve in your community or wherever you work."

She suggested that pharmacists read as much as they can on the subject and also ask their patients open-ended questions about their culture, beliefs, and treatment preferences.

ACPE already there

Zweber believes that it may be redundant for states to mandate culture competency training. She points out that the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) already requires cultural competency education to be part of the curriculum of pharmacy schools. Consequently, most graduates of pharmacy schools have taken cultural competency courses.

"Many healthcare institutions also require such training for all their practitioners," said Zweber. She adds that state pharmacy organizations now typically offer cultural competency training for pharmacists and technicians at annual meetings. Sessions include lectures, interactive discussions, and workshops.

Sensitivity and empathy

Subramaniam, who has contributed to Drug Topics in the past, spoke not as a VA representative but in an unofficial capacity.

"Pharmacists need to connect their knowledge of medications and how they affect different ethnic groups," said Subramaniam. "They need to understand that healthcare disparities exist and that various populations have different healthcare needs."