Pharmacy Practice Faculty Publications


Impact of a Health Literacy Assignment on Student Pharmacist Learning

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Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy







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BACKGROUND: The average American adult reads at the 8th grade level while most written health information materials, including medication guides, are written at the 12th grade level. To assist students with health literacy-sensitive communication, pharmacy schools should incorporate educational activities addressing health literacy competencies.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to evaluate the impact of a health literacy assignment on student pharmacists' perceptions of: 1) learning about health literacy; 2) ability to write health literacy level-appropriate patient education material; and 3) the use of these skills in future pharmacy practice.

METHODS: Third professional year student pharmacists were asked to rewrite a patient medication information sheet at the 5th grade reading level, altering it from the 12th grade level. Following assignment completion, students responded to a 4-item open-ended questionnaire on what they learned from the activity, what information components were the most difficult to rewrite and reason for the difficulty, key strategies to accomplish the assignment, and their perception of the impact this assignment had on their future practice. Content analysis of the reflections was performed using QSR NVivo to identify themes grounded in the students' responses.

RESULTS: Reflections were completed in 2009 (n = 159) and 2010 (n = 144), for a total of 303 completed reflections. Predominant themes included greater understanding about the challenges, importance, and methods of health literacy level-appropriate communication and greater awareness of the role of pharmacists in presenting information clearly to patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Students indicated the activity increased their understanding of the complexity of patient information, the educational needs of patients, and the importance of providing information that is understandable. Student pharmacists learned methods of effective communication with patients and should be better prepared to communicate in a health literacy-level appropriate manner.


Health literacy, pharmacy students, assessment, pharmacy education, health communication, humans, learning