Hospital Pharmacists Critical Part of Treatment Team for COVID-19 Patients
Joplin, MO –Did you know that Coca-Cola®, Pepsi®, Dr. Pepper® and Ginger Ale were all invented by pharmacists? Benjamin Franklin and Hubert Humphrey are some of the most famous pharmacists. Today more than ever, pharmacists play a critical role in healthcare. Freeman Health System salutes them today – during National Pharmacist Day, January 12, 2021 – and every day.
Over the decades, the role of pharmacists has grown significantly, especially when it comes to clinical knowledge. Freeman Hospital West Pharmacist Adrienne Carey, Pharm.D.BCPS, says patient care is truly a team effort.
“We look at every patient every day to make sure their drug regimen is safe and appropriate for their situation,” says Carey. “We work closely with doctors to optimize therapies, especially antibiotics, to make sure dosing matches what they need to fight infection. Drug level monitoring and dosing adjustments are a big part of our job because patients’ clinical statuses change rapidly in the hospital. We also monitor kidney function daily to make sure doses are correct.”
In the battle against COVID-19, pharmacists play an integral role in medications being given to patients.
“With all the new drugs getting emergency use authorization, we have to keep up on the latest research and studies,” says Carey. “When Veklury® (remdesivir) came to the forefront as a possible treatment for COVID-19, pharmacists were involved in patient consent, as well as lab work to test both liver and kidney function of patients. We are also helping facilitate use of bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody therapy through the infusion center.”
Carey says that every day the drug scene changes for COVID-19 as some treatments are deemed effective and others are not. Blood disorders and clotting are an issue for COVID-19 patients, and pharmacists are involved in determining which anti-coagulants to give them for the best outcome. Pharmacists are also heavily involved in preparing COVID-19 vaccines, which have to be thawed and mixed before being given.
Pharmacists can start with a bachelor’s degree or pre-pharmacy program then study for more years to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. They must also be licensed, which requires passing two exams. Carey says it is now common in the hospital setting for licensed graduates to take part in residency programs just like those for physicians.
“They experience rotations alongside medical students and those in physician residency,” Carey says. “The post-graduate year, pharmacy residents get hands-on training in the work force, especially those hoping to work in a hospital or clinical setting.”
Many pharmacists, especially clinical pharmacists, now seek board certification. It is the gold standard for credentialing and way of demonstrating that a pharmacist possesses a certain body of knowledge and is qualified to contribute at advanced practice levels. Carey is board certified in pharmacotherapy, which is similar to an internal medicine certification. To take the credentialing exam, a pharmacist must have a few years of clinical experience or a residency. Board certifications for pharmacists also include oncology, metabolic support and infectious disease, among others.
Employment of pharmacists is projected to have a 10-year growth of 3%. Pharmacists also can work in retail pharmacies, drug stores and grocery stores, but the profession is rapidly changing and more pharmacists are working in a clinical role in hospitals, physician offices and specialty clinics.
Pharmacists will continue to play a vital role in hospitals where their knowledge of medicines is critical for the team delivering patient care.