Pharmacist and Pharmacy Staff Knowledge, Attitudes and Motivation to Refer Patients for Suicide Risk Assessment: Lessons from Operation SAVE

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Objectives: To report the results of a national program to train US Department of Veterans Health Affairs (VA) pharmacy staff and other employees with direct patient contact to serve as suicide preventionguides. Setting; VA Medical Centers nationwide. Subject Description: 7,431 VA employees completed training between February 1 and September 30, 2008, including 290 pharmacy staff members. Practice Innovation: Since 2007, the VA has required all staff with direct patient contact to train as “guides” in suicide prevention. The VA developed and disseminated nationally a classroom-based mandatory program to train gatekeepers to: [1] Identify a veteran who may be at risk of suicide; [2] Ask questions about suicide in an objective and non-threatening way; and [3] Refer a veteran for evaluation and treatment. Main Outcome Measures: Knowledge about suicide and guiding, and attitudes and motivation to perform guiding before and after training. Results: On all measures, training was associated with a statistically significant (p<0.001) increase in the proportion of pharmacy staff with [1] correct responses to knowledge questions about suicide, and [2] positive attitudes towards gatekeeping. Yet, fewer pharmacy staff reported being comfortable talking about suicide or being prepared to handle a suicidal veteran. Conclusions: Pharmacy staff knowledge, attitudes and motivation improved significantly after the mandated training. Yet, compared to all other VA employees, pharmacy staff reported less confidence in dealing with suicidal veterans after training. Future training and prevention efforts may need to target specific needs of pharmacy staff in a wide range of pharmacy practice settings.


This is a chapter in Frontiers in Suicide Risk: Research, Treatment and Prevention. Edited by Jill E. Lavigne, © 2012 Nova Science Publishers.

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