Hospital pharmacy, more than just dispensing medication

My career in hospital pharmacy

While I was in college we used to visit the local hospital for work experience as part of our pharmacy practice module. During my visits here, I learned about the diverse role of a hospital pharmacist. It was fascinating to see how hospital pharmacists were involved in patient care. I realized that it’s not just about dispensing drugs, hospital pharmacy is all about optimizing drugs. I have watched pharmacists and observed how diverse and challenging their day-to-day working lives are, no two days are the same. My journey began as a pre-registration pharmacist at a mental health trust. Working here has really boosted my self-confidence to deal with complex situations. I began to value the importance of mental health alongside physical health. After passing the pre-registration exam, I started my career as a hospital pharmacist in a district general hospital.

My role as a hospital pharmacist

My day-to-day role varies but generally I tend to cover my specialty department which is gastroenterology. I perform medication histories and reconcile medications for newly admitted patients. I also review medication records to ensure that the correct medication has been prescribed for the correct patient. Many patient-specific factors must be considered, such as kidney function and weight. Another essential is providing non-stock drugs, applying for funding, and filling out non-formulary forms. My specialty role also involves screening for expensive biologic drugs and providing parental nutrition. I am also involved in the education and training of junior pharmacists, trainee pharmacists, junior doctors and nurses.

What I enjoy most about my role is the multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to patient care. I work with specialists to design the most appropriate treatment plan for patients. Every patient is different, and it’s this individualistic approach and the interaction between different healthcare professions that makes the role exciting. It is very gratifying to see the positive impact on patients’ lives. The main challenge in the work of a hospital pharmacist is the time constraint. At any given time, there may be 4-5 tasks waiting to be completed and managing this can be difficult. However, with experience, I have learned to prioritize and assess the urgency of each task.

Working during the Covid-19 pandemic

Working during the Covid-19 pandemic has been an unforgettable time. It was a far cry from anything treated in the past by today’s hospital pharmacists. The increase in the number of Covid-19 cases has not only led to an increase in workload, but also an increase in staff illnesses. It has become physically and mentally exhausting for all medical professionals. However, it was the morale of the team that allowed me to get out of it. The determination to care for our critically ill patients and get through this pandemic has been felt in every member of staff. The importance of clinical trials was fully recognized during this phase and most pharmacists got involved.

Electronic prescription

Lately my Trust has implemented the ePrescribing system which is in line with the NHS plan to become fully digital by 2024. In a short time I have already noticed great benefits such as a reduction in prescription and administration errors, no requirement for medication chart rewrites, better recognition of medication history, and fewer medication omissions. However, there have been some technical IT issues which will hopefully subside over time.

Be a member of the PDA

I continually strive to provide safe and efficient services to patients; however, with it come great responsibilities. Regardless of the work setting, we all face challenges and can feel overwhelmed with tasks. In the hospital sector, pharmacists are constantly under pressure to meet deadlines for discharge and prescription of drugs. I have always encouraged my colleagues to voice their concerns and raise awareness, but there may be situations where professional advice is needed. The PDA is ideal for providing support and guidance as they care about pharmacy professionals across all industries. I encourage all pharmacists, interns and pharmacy students to join the PDA and feel empowered in their professional practice.

By Amandip Kaur Souni, specialist hospital pharmacist and member of the regional PDA committee

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