An Interview with Amber Elliot, BSN, RN, Assistant Director, St. Francois County Health Center
St. Francois County, Missouri was one of three sites selected for year 2 of a pilot program of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NACCHO (the National Association of County and City Health Officials), and NaRCAD (The National Resource Center for Academic Detailing). This exciting pilot program focused on community-level work with local public health departments to develop customized interventions to reduce opioid overdose and death. Seven sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected over the two years to be trained in academic detailing; those trained health professionals then conducted 1:1 field visits with front line clinicians to impact behavior around prescribing, treatment referrals, and patient care, all within a rural area. As year 2 comes to a close, we’re showcasing stories from the field.
NaRCAD: Thanks for joining us to talk about academic detailing in St. Francois, Amber. Let’s start the conversation with some background information about your county. How has the opioid crisis presented itself in your community?
Amber: As with many other places, St. Francois County has certainly felt the impact from the opioid crisis. We have high rates of overdoses and over-prescribing. There have also been more children in foster homes because their parents have an opioid use disorder, as well as increasing drug arrest rates. Many aspects of our community have been affected in some way or another. I think this is the main reason why so many community agencies have come together to start working on this issue.
NaRCAD: Why did you think the strategy of academic detailing would lend itself to improving patient health in response to the opioid crisis in your community?
Amber: Academic detailing is a great strategy to reach out directly to clinicians in their offices in order to provide resources and supportive education without punitive actions. We really weren’t sure what to expect with having two nurse practitioners, two registered nurses, and a pharmacist carrying out the 1:1 detailing visits.
Health Center administration and detailers were skeptical of how physicians would react to other disciplines “telling them how to do their job”. However, academic detailing isn’t telling them what to do, it’s talking with them about what they can do to keep their patients safe. It is a partnership.
Missouri is the only state without a statewide PDMP. St. Francois County passed an ordinance to join the St. Louis County voluntary PDMP in 2017. The first report from the PDMP showed St. Francois County as the highest prescribing county in the state. This was a big concern for the Local Board of Health and, we learned from community partners, the citizens of St. Francois County. Health Center administration has presented opioid-related health data for the county at various meeting and kept hearing from partners that clinician outreach education and patient education were top priorities when it came to prescription opioids.
NaRCAD: So, it sounds like it’s been a success so far. What would you say has been the most impactful piece of this intervention?
Amber: The greatest success of academic detailing in St. Francois County so far has been the willingness of most physicians to start the conversation about how they can improve prescribing patterns, and care of patients at risk for or experiencing opioid use disorder (OUD). Also, many physicians have started using the PDMP regularly as a result of our academic detailing visits.
NaRCAD: That’s excellent news and shows the impact that 1:1 education can have! Over the course of this pilot project these past 4 months, what has the greatest challenge been with implementing a successful academic detailing intervention to improve opioid safety in St. Francois?
Amber: The challenge are the providers who do not want to talk with the detailers, or the ones who flat out refuse to change their prescribing patterns. As a nurse, this is frustrating to me because I believe in quality, evidence-based healthcare for all. The refusal to learn, or seek to learn, new information about medications that are prescribed daily is poor patient care and our citizens deserve better than that.
NaRCAD: That does sound frustrating! During our 2-day training, we really emphasis the importance of asking open-ended questions to draw clinicians out. However, there will always be some clinicians who will not engage, no matter how great of a detailer you are. Victoria Adewumi from the original cohort of LOOPR detailers discussed that in a prior blog post. What is something you wish you knew prior to joining the LOOPR Academic Detailing project?
Amber: I wish I’d known more about choosing detailers. Recruitment is important. When recruiting detailers, it is more important to make sure to recruit people who have the bandwidth to do the detailing, rather than making sure they have the perfect clinical background. It may be a good idea to create a formalized agreement to ensure they completed their required detailing visits.
NaRCAD: You are spot on, Amber. Recruitment is a complex process. Readers can learn more about this later in the summer when we release our new Implementation Guide to help sites like yours select and hire the right candidates. Readers can read other LOOPR blog interviews here, and stay plugged in for more LOOPR site highlights in the next couple of months.
Amber Elliot, BSN, RN
St. Francois County Health Center
Amber Elliott is the Assistant Director for the St. Francois County Health Center in Park Hills, MO. She received her Associates Degree in Nursing in 2008 from Mineral Area College to become a Registered Nurse. She went on to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in 2011 from Central Methodist University. She has spent most of her nursing career working in acute settings, primarily hemodialysis. Amber started working in public health four years ago in hopes to make her own community a healthier, safer place to live. Amber has been working on opioid-related activities since 2017. She currently resides in Farmington, MO with her husband and two children.
An Interview with Victoria Adewumi, MA, Community Liason, City of Manchester Health Department
NaRCAD Training Alumna
by Kayland Arrington, MPH, Program Manager at NaRCAD
NaRCAD: How did you get into AD? How was the Manchester team formed?
Victoria: I was very interested in community outreach and improving the health and well-being of families! I had cursory experience with substance use disorder management and had to jump in with both feet. It really helped having other detailers on the team that NaRCAD trained that I could lean on. The other detailers constantly provided support, and one helped open the door for me at her health system to speak with clinicians. She even provided me talking points that previously worked for her so I could walk into my first appointment feeling confident.
NaRCAD: What has your experience been as a detailer who does not have clinical experience but who does have public health expertise? Is someone able to be effective as an academic detailer without as much prior clinical training?
Victoria: My experience has been extremely positive! I care about community, and I thought this was a great opportunity to gain new expertise in this field. I’ve always felt that a community perspective is needed for us to be able to leverage our impact in this field.
The NaRCAD Academic Detailing techniques training was fantastic in helping me build tools to be able to speak well and motivate clinicians around medication-assisted treatment (MAT). My goal as an individual detailer is always to present myself as being on the same team as clinicians. I really see detailing as having a solution for clinicians, rather than simply trying to sell them an idea.
NaRCAD: Was there a time when a clinician presented pushback or obstacles that made it difficult to get your message across?
Victoria: Some clinicians seemed to have already decided whether they were going to be on board or not before I even met with them. I had to feel strong and confident in the skills that I have. When I meet with a clinician, I always frame it as “I’m coming in as a representative of the community. There’s a crisis in our community, and you, as a provider, are a key part of the solution. How can we get you involved?” and “What kinds of things can you tell us that we haven’t even thought about before?” We need everyone’s participation if we’re going to change the tide of the city of Manchester, and clinicians are a vital part of that.
NaRCAD: You have mentioned the power of the team of detailers--can you tell us how the Manchester AD came to be so strong and effective?
Victoria: I didn’t know any of the other detailers before the project. The NaRCAD training was great as an introduction to the work and to each other. We all had a sense of hope that was immediately apparent. We have the privilege of doing work that helps save lives and because of this attitude, there was a sense of camaraderie right away. We’ve been effective because our AD team is strong, and it was strong because we were intentional about building bonds. During the implementation period, we never went more than a month without checking in with each other, and sharing successes and challenges.
I don’t think I would have enjoyed the process as much if I didn’t have this amazing AD team of colleagues. We’ve had incredible success in building a team of detailers who are all committed to and excited about the work of connecting with frontline clinicians to improve patient care around opioid safety.
NaRCAD: How would you recommend other programs go about recruiting those people that are equally committed and excited?
Victoria: That’s a great question! I didn’t necessarily have an opioid response background, but I’ve always cared about communities. That desire to help others makes a great detailer. The trainings can teach the clinical content, but that element of wanting to improve people’s lives is the anchor of a strong AD team, and will resonate with the providers you’ll be detailing. I would then advise new sites to do the important work of helping their detailers to build strong relationships and a sense of teamwork right from the beginning. Those relationships will support everything, from good communication with clinicians, to a renewed sense of purpose in doing the work, which shields against burn out moving forward. Consistent opportunities to check in and connect between AD team members can’t be overemphasized—it truly made me feel that I was never in this alone; I was always working as part of something bigger than myself.
Victoria Adewumi, MA
City of Manchester Health Department
Victoria Adewumi is a Community Liaison with the Manchester Public Health Department. Victoria primarily helps coordinate and staff programming of the Manchester Community School Project, a model that facilitates better health for Manchester residents through place-based interventions. Victoria serves Manchester residents by linking them to partners in the health, social service, business, non-profit, and faith communities and by engaging community members in resident leadership and equity activities. Victoria also participates in efforts to serve refugees and newcomers in New Hampshire through both direct service and community-building initiatives. Victoria holds Bachelor and Master of Arts Degrees in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire.
Featuring: Carol Furlong, LCMHC, MAC, MBA, Director of Substance Use Disorders, Elliot Hospital
Jill MacGregor, APRN, Catholic Medical Center, & Katie Sawyer, LICSW, MLADC, Director, Integrated Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders, Network4Health/Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester
Interview by Isabel Evans, Fellow, NACCHO, in partnership with NaRCAD
EDITOR'S NOTE: Manchester, New Hampshire, was the third site of four selected for a 2018 pilot program of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NACCHO (the National Association of County and City Health Officials), and NaRCAD (The National Resource Center for Academic Detailing). This exciting pilot program focused on community-level work with local public health departments to develop customized interventions to reduce opioid overdose and death. Four sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected to be trained in academic detailing; those trained health professionals then conducted 1:1 field visits with front line clinicians to impact behavior around prescribing, treatment referrals, and patient care, with Manchester’s team focusing primarily on access to Medication Assisted Treatment [MAT]. As year 1 comes to a close, we’re showcasing successes from the field.
Thanks for talking with us about your work in Manchester, New Hampshire. Can you tell us about your team? How were detailers chosen to represent the health department for this pilot project?
Carol: Tim Soucy, from the Manchester Department of Health, contacted representatives at each of our organizations and gave a little bit of information about the training. He asked if our organizations had particular people that might be interested, and my supervisor thought of me, since I was in the middle of developing a MAT program for my organization. I jumped at the chance to participate.
Jill: My organization received the same email, and as the primary care lead nurse practitioner, I was considered the most appropriate to participate.
Katie: The invitation came from the site that received the CDC grant (City Health Department). The invitation was disseminated among a number of local human service/health agencies who are part of a Network of agencies as a result of our 1115 Waiver partnership.
The NaRCAD team came to your site back in March, 2018, helping you get ready to be ‘in the field’ and talk to clinicians about the opioid crisis. Tell us how that went, and how you applied what you learned in training.
Carol: I’m a naturally shy person who dislikes being the center of attention, so I was incredibly nervous about the role plays during training. The turned out to be invaluable, since I use the skills I developed through practicing and receiving feedback during every visit. The role plays prepared me so well for meeting with providers, and I go into the conversations feeling confident and comfortable. When they ask questions, I feel that I know how to answer, or where to turn for more information, such as the wonderful handouts available on the NaRCAD website.
Jill: For me, learning how to hold a discussion as a detailer was the most important element of the training. I learned how to frame a conversation using open-ended questions, which allows the discussion to progress. Understanding how to simultaneously get a provider’s perspective, while also giving them the information they need, is a critical detailing skill.
Katie: We were able to role play, which has proven very helpful out in the field to stay focused, on topic, and empathetic to the position of each clinician that I speak to. The handouts that NaRCAD provided have easy to read information and great graphics, so they have also proved useful for staying on track with the key messages during detailing visits, along with providing supplemental information.
The opioid epidemic has affected many communities in unique ways. How have local clinicians responded to your visits? What do clinicians in Manchester see as major barriers to improving health for their patients struggling with this issue?
Carol: Clinicians can be a little skeptical at first, since they’re often expecting that I’m going to try to “sell them” on something. When I focus on listening to their experiences and their concerns, I’m able to gently address those concerns and give resources or suggestions. Even just having a discussion can help clinicians to feel that you’re interested in how they feel, and that you genuinely want to help them – I would describe some clinicians as “dumbstruck” from our conversations, because they’re preparing to do battle with me, but they instead come to see me as a resource, and are more willing to meeting with me.
As for challenges, we deal with a fair amount of stigmatization of substance use. It’s a major barrier, and we’ve had to spend a lot of time addressing that in my organization. Another barrier for clinicians is a preconceived notion that providing MAT is an onerous process, and too time-consuming to add into their schedules. And these two barriers really complement each other in a bad way – I often get providers saying that MAT is too much work and that their MAT patients will just end up using opioids again and ending up back in the emergency room. Breaking down these misconceptions about MAT and getting to the root of the stigma against MAT is a big challenge.
However, we’re approaching these challenges with education and lots of conversations, since we’ve found that helping our staff to get a better sense of addiction as a disease is really invaluable to making them more open to MAT and treating people with opioid use disorder. The timing of the academic detailing initiative couldn’t have been better for my organization, because having conversations about addiction leads well into having conversations about MAT, and vice versa. Engaging in academic detailing has opened up a whole new avenue of clinician education for me.
Jill: Because of my role at my health system, I talk to providers about many different topics and they’re used to me approaching them, which has definitely helped give me and automatic “in” and bring up sensitive topics. My institutional knowledge helps too, since I can answer questions specific to my organization and our various programs or resources around opioids.
A major challenge I face is that providers don’t think they have the time and resources to implement MAT into primary care, and they don’t feel they have the behavioral health support to do so successfully. However, I’ve found that this is often based around a lack of knowledge, since when I ask more probing questions about MAT, it’s often clear that they don’t really know much about it!
Providers will come to conclusions without getting the right education, and I find that they often “change their tune” when I give them more information. Providers are also hesitant about writing a prescription for a MAT patient if there isn’t someone in their office who can talk to the patient about addiction itself. Right now, we’re working on integrating behavioral health clinicians into primary care, which I’m hopeful will help with this very real concern.
Katie: There has been some hesitation in sharing with detailers, in regards to professional experience, as I believe most clinicians are on edge in trying to do the best that they can to address patient needs, while also supporting alternatives to typical or historical use of prescribed opioids. With an empathetic and interested stance, I’ve found that most clinicians are open with their experience and struggles.
There are a number of themes among clinicians for challenges that I’ve noticed, including a limited behavioral health workforce to support what they view as an ideal MAT protocol, which would include individual and group counseling, regular urine toxicology screens, and wraparound services along the continuum of care. In addition, there is a concern among providers about the potential diversion of Buprenorphine by patients.
Katie: It has been rewarding to meet with each clinician for different reasons – I would view success as learning more about the clinicians that are already on board and excited to pursue getting a waiver, as it gets them talking and feeling a renewed energy to share with others. I view my conversations with clinicians who are not interested in pursuing a waiver as equally rewarding, since it allows for both of us to share and hear the other’s perspective. We can agree that the work is needed and challenging, no matter how we decide to go about addressing the needs of our patients.
Lastly, what advice would you tell new detailers? What do you wish you knew when you started out?
Carol: I would tell new detailers to take a deep breath and know that you’re ready for this – NaRCAD does such a good job of training us as detailers, and you just feel ready.
Jill: I would say to recognize that everyone has a natural process for adapting to new ideas. You’ll get some providers who are ready and energized, some who will want to watch others in action before they jump in, and some who simply may not be interested. It can be frustrating when providers aren’t interested in your topic or resources, but understand that this is natural, and don’t take it personally! Every visit will be different, and that’s okay.
Katie: My advice is to remember that success is not defined as “convincing” someone that the topic of your detailing visit is “the right answer”. In fact, trying to convince another person of anything is essentially walking against waves. Instead, be open to listening to that person and their experiences, and then value the experience that they have had. This is more likely to open the conversation to allow you to share your wealth of information and experiences. It’s all about planting seeds.
Ideas? Comments? Questions? Sound off on this blog in the comments section below!
Featuring: Robin Tuttle, RN, ER Nurse, Academic Detailer, NaRCAD Training Alumnus
Interview by Kabaye Diriba, Senior Program Analyst, NACCHO, in partnership with NaRCAD
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bell County, Kentucky, was the first site of four selected for a 2018 pilot program of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NACCHO (the National Association of City and County Health Officials), and NaRCAD (The National Resource Center for Academic Detailing). This exciting pilot program focused on community-level work with local public health departments to develop customized interventions to reduce opioid overdose and death. Four sites experiencing significant public health problems related to opioids were selected to be trained in academic detailing; those trained health professionals then conducted 1:1 field visits with front line clinicians to impact behavior around prescribing, treatment referrals, and patient care, all within a rural area. As year 1 comes to a close, we’re showcasing successes from the field.
Thanks for talking with us about your on this pilot project with NACCHO, the CDC, and NaRCAD, working to support local efforts in your community.
Robin: What we’ve been doing has been a breath of fresh air! I'm proud to be a part of it, and happy to help in any way that I can.
Tell us how local detailers were selected for this project—what kinds of professional backgrounds make up your diverse team members?
Robin: I was asked by a co-worker, another detailer, who thought “I know this really outgoing, outspoken person that might fit the team.” Our team is made up of people that have hands-on knowledge about the opioid epidemic. I’ve been in healthcare since 1988 and I’ve been living here in Bell County for 30 years. I started working as a nurse aid at one of the local hospitals and then went on to college to get my RN. Our detailing team all had a common interest when we got together.
What elements of the training do you apply most often during your visits when delivering your key messages?
Robin: What helped me the most was that last day of training when we were practicing academic detailing. Asking open-ended questions is the most important thing. You get so wrapped up in wanting to deliver your messages, but it’s not necessary that you get all of your messages in on that first visit. You may feel rushed to deliver all your messages if you’re afraid you’re not going to make it back in the door, but what I found is the more I met with doctors, and the more I said things like, “What have you seen in your practice?” or “Tell me about a patient…” or “Talk to me about the problems you’re having…”, the more I saw the conversation open up. That’s something I really picked up on the second day of training—learning to turn it back around and asking [needs assessment] questions. Let them get involved, and let me really listen to what they have to say; that way it'll help contribute to the conversation going forward.
The opioid epidemic can be a sensitive topic. When you approach clinicians to discuss their behaviors around the opioid epidemic, how are you generally received? What do clinicians in Bell County see as major challenges in your community?
Robin: Almost everyone I spoke to was very receptive about everything that we talked about, including all 5 of our campaign’s key messages. Because treatment in this area is slim to none, it all circled back to, “What if I find someone [a patient] that has opioid use disorder? How can you help me?” Doctors here are telling me that even people that have overdosed and come to the hospital are having a hard time [getting access to treatment]. There are places that are not in Bell County, but we would need some sort of transportation system that could get patients to those places.
What challenges do Bell County clinicians face, along with being busy, when trying to support their patients who are prescribed opioids?
Robin: Clinicians are often challenged in identifying symptoms of someone with opioid use disorder. Also, sometimes patients are sent to a pain [management] clinic, but those don’t always work. In our community, we can send them to the local Suboxone clinic which is accessible and easy to get to.
When it comes to Suboxone, you cannot look at it as an “all-or-nothing” approach. That’s a challenge here in Bell County, trying to get the community to know that abstinence is not always the answer, and sometimes people might have to take some form of medication for life to get the wiring back together that they've already lost because of their disorder.
I also understand some of the doctors are adamant about their current patients that have been taking these medications for 25 years for this chronic pain, which they don’t think they can do much about, and they’re concerned about this newer generation [of patients] coming in.
What have been some of the more rewarding exchanges you’ve had with clinicians you’ve met with?
Robin: I've had a lot of good visits, but this one sticks out in my mind: there was one clinician where I felt immediately like I was going to get the “brush off”. But I ended up staying for an hour and a half! I sat there with this doctor, who I’ve had a challenging professional relationship with historically, and he ended up talking to me at length about patients he was seeing, and those he had inherited. I was so excited that I’d spoken with him for so long, and that I’d covered all 5 of our campaign’s key messages. I walked away from that visit with questions to follow up on that I wanted to be able to answer for him at a future visit, and I felt like I made a new friend.
What do you want to tell new detailers who are just starting to form teams and try this kind of 1:1 outreach education model out with clinicians in their communities? What piece of advice would you have appreciated when you started your first detailing visits?
Robin: Try not to get discouraged! After we divided up all the physicians, we started making phone calls. That can be discouraging. I found out we actually had more luck stopping by. We called it the “drug representative look”: you dress up, put your badge on that says academic detailer, have the clipboard and all the paperwork, and you look professional. I really found out that I had more luck by just walking in and saying, “Do you have a minute?”
Don’t get discouraged if you're making calls all day long and they keep putting you off, because receptionists are making appointments all day long too and it’s hard to explain what you’re doing over the telephone. We definitely felt discouraged during the first couple of weeks of outreach. We were feeling like we hit a brick wall, and that’s when we coined the term "drive-by” detailing visits. We started driving around and just showing up at offices. So, get out and drive if you can’t get through over the phone. Go with a card and introduce yourself. They [clinicians] all want to talk about opioids. You'll be surprised when you get in the room with them and they start talking.
Ideas? Comments? Questions? Sound off on this blog in the comments section below!
Highlighting Best Practices
We highlight what's working in clinical education through interviews, features, event recaps, and guest blogs, offering clinical educators the chance to share successes and lessons learned from around the country & beyond.