Friday, November 2, 2012

The Pharmacists Role

The recent weather events here in NY and NJ made me admire the efforts of the staff at NYU to evacuate their patients and caused me to reflect on what it was like being part of the evacuation for Irene last year.  The pharmacy department of NYU and all other hospitals in the area worked behind the scenes, away from the news, to ensure each evacuated patient was sent with three days worth of medication.  That’s our role, that’s how we contribute and it’s something to be proud of. So I came back to something I wrote a few months ago, and feel it’s worth sharing my point of view.
There’s an analogy I like to make that helps identify the role of the pharmacist in the hospital and in the emergency department. However, the analogy does require a prerequisite knowledge of American football. If you think of the medical professionals working in the emergency department as the players on a football team, the physicians are quarterbacks, nurses are the receivers and running backs and PA’s and NP’s are tight ends. But pharmacy, we’re the linemen.  When everyone is doing his or her job well; you’d never know we existed. But without everyone working together as a team, the quarterback gets sacked, the receivers can’t get open, and the running backs get tackled behind the line of scrimmage – medication delays and errors happen.
As pharmacists we must do our part to ensure that patients get the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time. We accomplish this through verification, preparation, compounding, dispensing, administration and monitoring. When we do our job, physicians can narrow their differential, and nurses can assess and provide directed drug therapy and patient care without having to guess. It allows for others to do their jobs better. If we don’t do our job, the risk of harm would jump because others would have to step in to fill our role.  It’s what would happen if Eli Manning tries to block Ray Lewis: the outcome is going to be bad.
Three of the best pharmacists I’ve ever met trained me to be an emergency medicine pharmacist. In the emergency department we remember our role as pharmacists: ensuring that patients get the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time.  That goes for all patients including trauma alerts, MIs, intubations, resuscitations, and the list goes on.  We’re at the bedside anticipating physician orders to make sure the right drug is being used at the right dose and prepared appropriately.  We don’t save the patients, and we won’t ever get the same attention the quarterback does, but that’s ok. I’m proud to be a pharmacist.  Not getting attention comes with the job but when the team wins – when we can deliver the best possible care to the patient – we win too. 

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