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Hospital Pharmacists Play Bigger Role in Patient Care

Hospital Pharmacists Play Bigger Role in Patient Care

By Cindy Mehallow | Monster Contributing Writer

A decade or so ago, patients could leave the hospital without seeing, speaking with or even thinking about a vital member of their healthcare team: The pharmacist. Tucked away from patients, pharmacists typically dispensed medications that physicians prescribed and nurses administered. Today, pharmacists have more clinical training and are eager to use it as they step onto patient floors and assume an integral spot on patient-care teams.

“Pharmacists are the experts in medication therapy, compared to nurses and physicians,” says Jill Haug, PharmD, MBA, director of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ New Practitioners Forum. “They’ve had the most study in medication and are the best-suited to counsel on patients’ medication therapy.”

Pharmacy students often find their hospital rotation an “eye-opening experience,” Haug says, because they use their clinical training daily and can see how it affects patients.

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Variety of Venues and Positions

Hospital pharmacists, who work in teaching, cancer, pediatric, Veterans Affairs, psychiatric and other types of hospitals, typically hold:

• Staff positions, advising on medication selection, administration and dosing.
• Clinical positions involving direct patient contact.
• Administrative positions managing and coordinating the pharmacy and staff.

Hospital pharmacists also teach and conduct research.

The work of the following hospital PharmDs illustrates the level of clinical involvement, visibility and variety that hospital-based pharmacists enjoy:

Dual Duty

As a clinical specialist in pediatric intensive care, Sean O’Neill, PharmD, spends 70 percent of his time making patient rounds at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

O’Neill also helps develop policies and guidelines regulating the new drugs added to the hospital formulary and those used in the pediatric unit, a challenge he especially relishes. “Many new drugs don’t have literature regarding the effects on pediatric patients, so we try to extrapolate the literature to pediatric patients and anticipate the effects,” he says.

O’Neill spends his remaining time on his other passion: Infectious diseases. As clinical specialist in infectious diseases, he’s responsible for the hospital’s antibiotic approval system. He also makes rounds related to this specialty.

“I was lucky to find a job that involves my two areas of interest,” he says. Demand for pediatric pharmacists is keen, but since there aren’t many children’s hospitals or ones large enough to support a pediatric pharmacy, opportunities may be limited.

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