By: Hanna Knurr, Pharmacy Practice Resident
Did you ever wonder how your nurse knows that he or she is giving you the right medications at the right times and at the right dose? Hospital pharmacists handle all things medication related!
What does a hospital pharmacist do? Many people think that a pharmacist is the person that you visit at the drugstore. That person, an outpatient pharmacist, manages the medications that you take at home. At Meriter-Unity Point Health, hospital pharmacists are an important part of the health care team.
Here are some of the things that hospital pharmacists do:
- Pharmacists are medication experts: All pharmacists have college degrees. In pharmacy school, students spend 4 years learning to be experts in medication management. Student pharmacists also spend their last year gaining valuable work experience in different settings, ranging from outpatient pharmacies to hospitals and clinics. After graduation, many pharmacists spend an extra year or two in residency programs, learning advanced skills.
- Medication monitoring: In many hospitals, including Meriter-Unity Point Health, pharmacists work on the inpatient floors, and in the inpatient pharmacy. The unit-based pharmacist works closely with doctors, nurses and patients. On many floors, the patient care team conducts daily “rounds”. During rounds, the pharmacist makes recommendations and answers questions about medications for the rounding team. For many medications, the hospital pharmacist helps to choose the correct dose.
- Patient Education: The hospital pharmacist is a great person to inform you about your medications. They know what medications you are taking, why they have been prescribed, and what side effects you might experience. The pharmacist can teach you how to safely and effectively take your medications at home. If you have questions about your medications, just ask your nurse if you can speak with the pharmacist.
- Making sure that you are getting the right medication for you: Medications are complicated. At Meriter-Unity Point Health, our pharmacists review each patient’s current medications every day. When a doctor prescribes a new medication, your hospital pharmacist will check your medical chart and review your other medications to make sure that the new medication is the best choice for you. For some drugs, doses may change a lot from person to person. For those drugs, your hospital pharmacist can order lab tests to determine if these doses are high enough to be effective, but not too high that you are at risk of side effects. If a pharmacist finds that a medication is not effective or is causing side effects, he or she will contact your doctor to discuss a better option for you.
- Helping to keep you safe: Every medication that you receive in the hospital is labeled with your name and double checked by a pharmacist. From the pharmacy medications are sent to your floor, where your nurse can access them and then give them to you. For an extra layer of safety, Meriter-Unity Point Health uses a barcode scanning system to make sure that the medication your nurse gives to you is the one your doctor prescribed. Hospital pharmacists are constantly looking for ways to improve medication safety.
- Making sure that you have access to medications at home. Often, a doctor starts a patient on a new medication that will need to be continued when that patient goes home. When money is an issue, the hospital pharmacist can look at insurance information to find out if the drug prescribed is covered. If insurance coverage is an issue, the pharmacist may be able to recommend a less expensive alternative. For patients who might not have any insurance, the hospital pharmacists at Meriter are aware of programs to help patients get the medications that they need. We want you to have access to the medications that you need.At Meriter, we also work closely with our outpatient pharmacy to make sure that you can get your home medications before you leave the hospital. The outpatient pharmacist can even come visit you in your room, bring you your medications, educate about how to take them and what to expect.
At Meriter Unity-Point Health, our hospital pharmacists work hard 24 hours a day, every day, to make sure that our patients are getting the most benefit from their medications. There’s always a hospital pharmacist nearby– feel free to ask us about your medications or what we can do for you.