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New Ulm Medical Center

The personal touch counts for New Ulm pharmacy resident

For Natalie Hanson, being a pharmacy resident at New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) is all about the patient interactions – like the woman who was concerned about her blood thinner.

“I realized while we were talking that she did not have a lot of education about how diet can counteract the effectiveness of the medication, and how over-the-counter medications also can interfere with blood levels,” Hanson said.

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Natalie Hanson, a pharmacy resident at New Ulm Medical Center, says working directly with patients is one of her favorite parts of the experience.

As part of the medical center’s residency program, patients concerned about their medications can schedule a one-hour appointment directly with Hanson during the clinic’s regular weekday hours.

The 27-year-old received her doctorate degree in pharmacy from the University of Minnesota in May 2013 and applied for the one-year residency because of its emphasis on working with patients in the outpatient clinic.

“She has a strong passion for patient care and connections with the community,” pharmacy coordinator Sarah Leslie said of Hanson, a New Ulm native and the second pharmacist to participate in the hospital’s residency program.

A unique program

The 25-bed critical access hospital launched its pharmacy residency program after being approached in 2010 by the University of Minnesota, which was looking for placements for its pharmacy graduates. With its outpatient clinic, Leslie said, the hospital offered an ideal environment for pharmacy graduates interested in learning about patient care.

The community also benefits from having a pharmacist stationed at the clinic, according to Leslie. She said it is rare among rural hospitals in Minnesota to have a pharmacist staff an outpatient clinic, and that New Ulm was able to provide the service, at no charge to patients, because of the residency program, which is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

“It’s a value-added service,” Leslie explained, “and we do not bill for that.”

Hanson is also available for half-hour follow-up visits, and she sometimes meets spontaneously with patients on site, serving as an extra resource in the clinic if patients or providers have questions about medications. She even visits with patients starting on chemotherapy — also located in the clinic — to make sure they understand how to take their medications, what side effects they may experience and possible interactions with other medications.

Helping patients understand

While Hanson spends most of her time in outpatient care, she is in the hospital one day a week, filling prescriptions and calling newly discharged patients. Her goal is to talk to those patients about their medications, see that they have all of their prescriptions and make sure they are comfortable taking them.

Come January, Hanson also may get experience in retail pharmacy when the hospital is set to complete a 12,000-square-foot expansion. The new space will include a retail pharmacy with a drive-thru lane, medical supplies including wheelchairs and oxygen, and 28 additional exam rooms.

“One goal of our residency is to have a well-rounded practitioner who knows all of the various aspects of working with patients both in the hospital and in the clinic,” Leslie said.

While Hanson enjoys her different roles at New Ulm, she gets the most satisfaction from patient interactions.

“I really enjoy helping patients learn to fit their medications into their lives, rather than feeling like their lives are being run by their medications,” she said. When a patient worries about missing a dose or how they will afford their prescriptions, “I help them figure out what we can do so their medications aren’t their main concern.”

Hanson is not sure what she will do after her residency, but she hopes it will involve working directly with patients. “I like the variety, and I hope to stick with the ambulatory care aspect.”