I recently returned from the Colorado Pharmacists Society’s Winter CE Program, also known as CE&Ski. This conference is a 4 day program that provides 15 hours of CE when it is cold and dark leaving a full day to enjoy the slopes and doing whatever else you like, whether it is strolling through the village, sunning on the deck overlooking the slopes or watching playoff football in the sports bar.

On one of the four days you had another option – going to the exhibit hall. I had the pleasure of attending my first exhibit hall as a practicing pharmacist since 1994, the year I began my service as executive director for the state pharmacy association.

As executive director, I was involved with the planning and execution of over 40 exhibit halls. At every one of these exhibit sessions, I spent time with each exhibitor to get their feedback on their exhibit hall experience and to thank them for their support. When I went to national meetings, my purpose of visiting the exhibitors was to determine how they could partner with CPS, whether it was sponsoring CE programs or other events, and, oh yes, to stock up on pens and post-its. Before the government’s crackdown on drug companies, exhibit halls were treasure troves of logo emblazoned pens, post its, clipboards, cups, bags, even wall clocks that had the word Viagra between the 3 and 9. If you actually stopped to talk to one of the exhibitors and listened to what they had to say, you could be going home with a calculator, stuffed animal or even an umbrella. If you weren’t sure who was giving away the good stuff, you just had to look around for which direction a steady stream of participants were going, just like ants at a picnic. If you weren’t sure where the exhibit hall was in a conference center, you just needed to figure out from which direction people with overstuffed bags filled with exhibit hall booty were coming.

Fast forward to 2016 – pharmaceutical drug companies can no longer distribute any logo items. What can they offer? Lots of valuable information about their products, copies of clinical studies and brochures highlighting what patients and pharmacists need to know about the proper use of their products. At the exhibit hall held in conjunction with the 2016 CPS CE & Ski, I spent two hours listening and learning. While it is true that many pharmacists get most of their drug information from continuing education programs and subscription services like Pharmacists Letter, the exhibit hall offers something that you can’t get from either of these sources – the hands-on experience.

Here are just some examples of what I learned:

Preparation and first-time use of a new inhaler.
This is a product that is simple to use but the first-time use preparation involves 4 very specific steps. Just priming the inhaler for first-time use consists of three steps, which need to be completed and repeated three times before the inhaler is ready for use. After demonstrating this multistep process, the exhibitor offered attendees a chance to practice what they just learned.

Use of a new insulin pen
The exhibitor demonstrated how to prepare the pen for use, calculate the dose if switching from another product, and offered the opportunity for attendees to inject a Styrofoam pad to get the feel of how much pressure is required to administer the insulin.

Use of a new insulin inhaler
Do you know how to load the cartridges in the new insulin inhaler? What is the difference in the blue, green and yellow cartridges? What is the length of time for refrigerated and room temperature storage? The exhibitor answered all these questions and demonstrated how the inhaler needed to be used in relation to the position towards the chin and the proper inhalation method. He then offered attendees  a chance to practice loading the cartridges to gain a better understanding of  the challenges a patient with arthritis might have.

What better to way to get confidence in counseling the patient on the proper use of these new devices than to have had this kind of hands-on experience? Next time you are in the exhibit hall, you may want to look for these kinds of opportunities. You will find the time well spent.

Exhibit Halls Can Provide Counseling Confidence

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