Pharmacists in hospital are just like the producers and scriptwriters of a brilliant movie. They are involved in so many things behind the scene that normal people didn't get to see. All the public saw are the main actors and actresses, or in the hospital sense, those people in spotless white coats and stethoscope slung lazily around their neck. Hence the importance of pharmacists in the hospital setup are often overlooked and minimised.
Get out of the pharmacy, Dr House!
What are the roles of pharmacists in hospital?
Part 1: The ward pharmacist
Ward pharmacist as the name suggests, are the pharmacists that work on a specific ward. In Australia, a ward usually has 24-36 beds, and a pharmacist will be responsible for the medication side of things in that particular ward.
In the morning, the pharmacist will check the bed list: to see if there are any new patients and whether a patient will be discharged or moved to another ward (or died).
Then it is the ward round where the pharmacist will go round the beds checking the drug charts of the patients, making sure that the medications are given and see if there are any changes made by the doctor. If there are changes, the pharmacist will make sure it is suitable and then supply the meds.
Sometimes, a pharmacist will go on ward rounds and meetings with doctors, where they will contribute and discuss about the best care that can be given to the patient, especially in terms of recommending medications. Pharmacists also make sure that medication prescribed by doctors are safe and effective in a particular patient.
If there is a new patient, the pharmacist will do a history taking interview. It basically involves asking the patient or the patient's carer what medications they are taking before they came to hospital. The pharmacist will then make sure that these medications will not interact with those newly prescribed by the doctor, and will also supply those meds to the patient so that they can have a continuity of care.
If a patient is going to be discharged, a pharmacist will need to counsel the patient on the new medications added and some of the changes that are made to the medications that they are taking before hospitalisation. They will also liaise with the patient's usual community pharmacy so that they are aware of the changes in medication too.
A ward pharmacist needs to monitor a lot of things too. There are a lot of medications of which their levels in the body need to be monitored. This is to make sure that too little or too much of those medications are not given. Pharmacists usually advices nurses on the time to measure the levels and later read the results to make sure that the they are within range.
In Australia, hospital pharmacists are involved in many other aspects of patient's care. The other roles will be further explained in another post.