“This isn’t how it is supposed to be”
How many times have we collectively said or thought that over the past few months? COVID-19 has impacted us in many ways and this is a time that we will not forget. The depth and breadth of the impact of COVID-19 has been immense. For a moment, let’s be selfish. This pandemic has taken a lot away from us this year at ASHP, including the Summer Meetings, the Strategic Planning Retreat, live Regional Delegate Conferences, and other moments we look forward to as we serve our profession. However, it has also created opportunities for us, as pharmacists, to rise to the occasion. This is because we are ESSENTIAL.
If you are like me, you have on several occasions had to explain to family and friends what you do as a health-system pharmacist. Folks don’t understand because their experience with pharmacists is typically with our ambulatory and retail colleagues. Do we fill prescription bottles of medications for patients in the hospital? Not usually, but we do many things that are essential to patient care. I’ve been reflecting on the pandemic and what its impact has been to our profession. The next time you are asked “what do you do in a hospital”, maybe this will help:
Essential acts of pharmacy in this pandemic (and most other days, too)
- Front-line Emergency Department pharmacists, donned in PPE, providing medications, answering dosing and drug interaction questions, and being the drug expert for emergent intubations, Code Blues, strokes, and whatever else might come through the door that day.
- ICU pharmacists are bedside rounding with physicians and nurses on sick COVID patients, recommending supportive treatments, antimicrobials, and sedative/paralytic options. Also, assuring the new treatments being tried are safe.
- Medication Safety pharmacists are following reports of adverse effects, or errors during these challenging times and investigating how to improve our systems to mitigate the risk of them recurring.
- Medication Reconciliation pharmacists and technicians working to get the best possible medication list when access to the patient or their family is limited. Working to verify medications and doses by talking to family members on a cell phone instead of at the bedside, because visitors aren’t allowed.
- Pharmacy technician purchasers and clinical pharmacy specialists managing drug supplies, surge planning and new shortages of COVID therapies to make sure the needed drugs are available for our patients. If something isn’t available, what options do we have that are available?
- Ambulatory pharmacists offering drive up INR testing to allow patients to be safe and manage their warfarin therapy.
- Pharmacy technicians making drips in new concentrations, refilling ADMs safety in COVID areas, getting the medications to where they need to be quickly.How do I do my job safety and preserve PPE at the same time?
- Pharmacy leadership working with front-line staff and other departments to redesign workflows and procedures in the OR, ED, central pharmacy, procedural areas and almost everywhere else that we take care of COVID positive or presumed positive patients. How do we protect our staff and other patients from the risk of infection?
- Clinical pharmacists managing medication therapy for ICU COVID and non-COVID patients while collaborating with physicians and nurses on solutions for new medication challenges with this new type of patient.
- Being supportive and possibly a shoulder to cry on for our pharmacy colleagues, as well as the doctors, nurses, environmental services staff, respiratory therapists and the rest of the team working at the patient’s bedside.
No, this isn’t how this was supposed to be, but we will rise to the occasion as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to take care of our patients, our coworkers and ourselves. It is essential and it’s what we do.
I want to thank the Section of Inpatient Care Practitioners for allowing me to serve as Chair this year. I have learned a lot, met many new friends and am continually humbled by the great work being done in pharmacy departments across the country every day. The SICP Executive Committee (GregORY Burger, Sarah Stevens, Sue Skledar, Alison King, Todd Lemke, Nish Kasebekar and Erika Thomas), has been a pleasure to work with and I wish GregORY Burger the best as he assumes the Chair role this summer. I hope everyone will find joy and relaxation this summer and stay safe.
Doug Meyer, B.S.Pharm., M.B.A., R.Ph., BCNSP
Chair, Section of Inpatient Care Practitioners