Pharmacist and Pharmacy Staff Knowledge and Attitudes Towards Suicide and Suicide Prevention After a National VA Training Program

Document Type

Poster Presentation

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To evaluate US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) training in suicide prevention on pharmacists' and pharmacy staff's knowledge of and attitudes toward suicide prevention.


Suicide prevention (SAVE or “guide”) training was implemented nationwide starting in 2007. All employees that interact with patients must take the 1-hour instructor-led class consisting of videos, worksheets and discussion regarding suicide statistics, suicide risk factors, and the responsibility of all VA employees to recognize suicide risk and to intervene with patients in distress, including taking an urgently distressed patient by the hand and walking him from the outpatient pharmacy to the emergency room, for example. At the end of training, employees completed surveys about attitudes and knowledge of suicide and her role in prevention with Likert scales (range=1 to 5). Descriptive statistics and generalized linear models (GLM) were used to assess differences in pharmacy staff knowledge and attitudes before and after training and to compare pharmacy staff to all employees.


7,431 employees from 251 VA Medical Centers trained January 1- September 30, 2008, including 290 pharmacists, pharmacy residents and pharmacy staff. At baseline, compared to all employees, pharmacy staff reported lower levels of suicide knowledge (22% cf. 31%), comfort in talking about suicide (43% cf. 59%), and being prepared to handle suicidal veterans (10% cf. 28%). Pharmacists and pharmacy staff improved significantly on every measure (p<0.0001) by the end of training. We found no differences between pharmacists and other pharmacy staff. After training when given the statement “I completely agree that I am prepared to handle a suicidal veteran,” women and those with additional suicide prevention training were most likely to agree while men and older employees were least likely to do so.


Pharmacists and pharmacy staff may have greater baseline needs for training in suicide prevention than other staff.



Poster presented at the International Society of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research International Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, May 25, 2011.

Abstract published in Value in Health, Volume 14, Issue 3, May 2011, Pages A199-A200:

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