Dispensing Knowledge

Pharmacists Make Rounds, Ensure Meds are Safe

Pharmacist Chris Smith, PharmD

Mention the pharmacy and you think of white-coated professionals, quietly reading prescriptions and filling bottles of pills. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to hospital pharmacies. Today’s hospital-based pharmacist is often part of the patient care team, making regular rounds with physicians and consulting with patients and families about appropriate medications. They are experts who incorporate the latest evidence-based practice guidelines into the science of dispensing drugs.

The pharmacy at NorthBay Medical Center is open 24 hours a day to meet the increased demand of the trauma center and a surgery department that operates daily. (The NorthBay VacaValley Hospital pharmacy is open from 6:30 a.m. to midnight.) Twenty-four pharmacists are on staff, and in addition to working in the main pharmacy, they are cross-trained in outpatient oncology and in the decentralized pharmacies in the ICU and on the medical-surgical floor. To meet these high expectations, their credentials include doctoral degrees, residency training and board certification.

In a 132-bed hospital with a busy emergency department, there is a constant demand for medications. Because hospitalized patients tend to have more complicated conditions and take multiple drugs, it is critical to find compatible solutions.

“Every day we are fine-tuning drugs for acutely ill patients,” says board-certified pharmacist Chris Smith, PharmD. “There are many grey areas when patients have multiple issues that take research and sometimes a little detective work to find the best medication.”

Hospital pharmacists are experts who incorporate the latest evidence-based practice guidelines into the science of dispensing drugs.

In a typical day, Chris could be found consulting with Nutrition Services to manage IV feedings, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit discussing electrolyte solutions, or offering poison control and overdose information to the emergency department. He may consult with a respiratory care practitioner about inhaled medications or a case manager regarding a patient’s blood thinners.

“I like the daily interaction with nurses, doctors and patient care team,” Chris says. “We have an excellent group of professionals here who are dedicated to their patients.”

Timing is often critical in the pharmacy. When a code is called for a stroke or heart attack, or a trauma case arrives, medications are needed now, and everyone in the pharmacy stops what they are doing to focus on the request, Chris explains. “There may be an urgent need for a drug that can stop bleeding, or a drug that can stop seizures. And along with the urgency we need to ensure the drug we provide is safe for the patient. Our goal is to get the correct medication to the patient as quickly as possible. Checks and balances are in place and our team excels at this.”

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