Delesha Carpenter, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.
Delesha Carpenter, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.

The North Carolina Area Health Education Centers awarded an Innovation Grant to Delesha Carpenter, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., to create an online module that prepares medical residents to communicate with pediatric patients and their parents about opioids.

The grant of more than $45,000 will allow Carpenter, an assistant professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, to develop an online module to teach medical residents to effectively engage pediatric patients and their parents in shared decision-making about treatment with opioid medications.

Currently, there are no national opioid prescribing guidelines for pediatric patients, which can lead to inappropriate prescribing, Carpenter said.

“Many cases of opioid abuse among youth can be traced back to an initial prescription from a physician,” she said. “Unfortunately, physicians have little guidance as to when to prescribe opioids to pediatric patients, so it is of upmost importance that they learn how to effectively communicate pain treatment options to pediatric patients and their parents.”

About 881,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 and 2.45 million young adults ages 18 to 25 misused  prescription opioids in 2016, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Approximately 20 percent of adolescents who have a current opioid prescription report using them to get high or to increase the effects of alcohol or other drugs.

In North Carolina, there has been a 73 percent increase in opioid-related deaths from 2005 and 2015.

Carpenter’s project will create an online module that residents can use to help pediatric patients and their families make decisions about pain treatment with opioid medications.

The module will be created by the UNC Center for Innovation in Pharmacy Simulation with input from residents and healthcare experts at the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, as well as local parents and adolescents.

“This module will fill an important educational gap and prepare medical, dental, surgical and pharmacy residents to engage in shared decision-making with pediatric patients and their parents about pain treatment with opioid medications,” Carpenter said. “We believe it will be the first of its kind to include videos explaining how to communicate effectively with both youth and parents about opioids.”

After it is developed, MAHEC residents will complete the module to evaluate its efficacy. If successful, the module will be made freely available.

Carpenter has conducted research into how school nurses and pharmacists are educated on prescription opioids and naloxone, an opioid reversal agent. She also studies how physicians communicate with youth about asthma.

“I’ve had a strong interest in improving communication between pediatric patients, their parents and providers,” Carpenter said. “The focus on opioids is a natural extension of this previous work and our other work with youth who show a strong interest in advocating for non-opioid options for the treatment of pain.”

North Carolina AHEC provides education programs and services for state health-care professionals across nine regional centers, with a focus on underserved populations.:

 

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