For some, the image that comes to mind when they hear the word ‘pharmacist’ is someone standing behind the counter in a drugstore, doling out prescriptions and answering questions. However, the scope of a pharmacist ranges far beyond educating patients on how to take medication and entering the realm of patient care.
Pharmacists’ can administer vaccines, order laboratory tests and offer critical healthcare advice to patients. Yet beyond this, they have become vital players for providing patient care in a number of settings. They play an important role in ensuring patient safety and wellness and can offer a unique perspective that other healthcare professionals cannot.
Here are some of the ways that pharmacists play a major role in providing patient care, and some success stories about pharmacists making a difference.
Collaborating on Medication Plans
Rather than simply taking instructions from physicians about which medications to administer, many pharmacists collaborate with them in order to come to an agreement about the best method of action. In the healthcare realm, pharmacists have the highest degree of knowledge in terms of medication, so their involvement in formulating patient care plans is essential.
Whether working solo or in a team-based setting, they can provide much needed insight, especially if a patient needs to take several different medications for one affliction, or needs to troubleshoot balancing conflicting medications for multiple illnesses.
A shining example of this is Bruce Roberts, a pharmacist working in Delaware, who was tasked with prescribing an infant with half a dozen medications. He was able to make a particularly stressful situation much smoother by collaborating with physicians, insurance companies and other pharmacists, and walking through the parents to ensure all of the different medications were administered correctly. He made such a positive impact that the mother of the child nominated him for a national Pharmacy Champions program.
Pharmacists working in a hospital setting have some of the largest impacts on patient care and involvement with a wider range of healthcare duties. For an average patient interaction, a hospital pharmacist can “consult on diagnosis, examine patient charts, conduct patient evaluations to recommend a course of treatment, and choose the appropriate dosing of medications and evaluate their effectiveness.”
This stretches far beyond the traditional understanding of a pharmacist and leads to improved quality of a patient’s hospital stay, lower readmission rates, and lower medication errors.
Dr. Gisele Scott-Woo, a pharmacist working at a hospital in Alberta, Canada, helped a patient who had endured years of antibiotics and several surgeries with no improvement to her chronic health problems. Rather than prescribing a medication and walking away, Scott-Woo went above and beyond to eradicate the patient’s problem. Assisting her patient with different medications, researching different therapeutic pathways, assessing her diet and lifestyle and monitoring progress until the right fit was found made all the difference.
Becoming a Trusted Healthcare Resource
In most instances, pharmacists come into the picture when medication advice is required to improve a sick patient’s recovery – they are often trusted more than anyone else when it comes to medication. However, it is also important to note that the role of a pharmacist has begun to expand into one of a primary care provider, and for this reason they have become another trusted overall healthcare resource for patients.
In situations where patients don’t need instruction on taking a medication but rather have inquiries about broader health concerns, many pharmacists are now considered by patients to be someone they can approach and trust. This sentiment does a lot for the overall image of the pharmacy profession, but also takes some of the stress off of others healthcare providers fielding similar questions.
Especially among communities that may not feel as comfortable seeking medical advice, pharmacists have become a vital resource. African American pharmacists have begun bridging a cultural gap to create a safe space for people of color to reach out about broader medical topics. At the end of the day, mutual trust and understanding is what allows pharmacists – and other healthcare professionals – to provide the best patient care possible.
Helping and Educating Other Healthcare Professionals
In addition to providing care for patients, pharmacists can lend their expertise to other healthcare professionals that share the same setting as them. The expanded role of pharmacists has helped to alleviate some pressure off other overworked healthcare providers, especially in fields that are understaffed. Pharmacists can also educate other healthcare professionals in areas like new medications, so that the level of care they offer their patients when a pharmacist isn’t present is more helpful and accurate.
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