LHSC celebrates Pharmacist Awareness Week

Extraordinary People

March 8 , 2012

Staff in the clinical pharmacy at Victoria Hospital

Pharmacists and Registered Pharmacy Technicians working to fill orders in the new clinical pharmacy located in the North Tower at LHSC's Victoria Hospital.

As a leader in hospital pharmacy practice, LHSC is proud to celebrate national Pharmacist Awareness Week from March 4-12, 2012. This year’s theme is “Your Pharmacist – Your Partner in Health.” LHSC is pleased to use this awareness week to help educate the public on how a hospital pharmacy operates, the unique roles of hospital-based pharmacists and registered pharmacy technicians, and its contributions to advancing pharmacy care in Canada.

A hospital pharmacy department operates much differently than retail pharmacies, with clinical pharmacists directly involved in a patient’s care plan throughout their hospital stay.

When a patient is admitted, hospital pharmacists will assist the health care team in gathering an accurate and up-to-date medication history, including all current medications being taken. The formal process of obtaining and documenting an accurate medication history is known as “medication reconciliation,” and a multi-disciplinary project is currently underway at LHSC to standardize this practice across the organization.

“An up-to-date and accurate medication list is essential,” says Nadia Facca, a Clinical Pharmacist at LHSC and Pharmacy Lead for the Med Rec project. “In order to make sure that hospital medications do not interact with current medications, we need to know everything the patient is currently taking. It’s important for patients coming in to the hospital to bring with them a complete list and/or vials of all prescriptions, non-prescriptions, vitamins, herbals and complementary products that they are taking.”

Working together with physicians, nurse practitioners, and other allied health care professionals, a clinical pharmacist will assist those who prescribe medications in choosing the best drug therapy to treat the patient’s diagnosis.

Clinical pharmacists are available to answer questions about medications, what they’re used for and possible side effects. Many pharmacists take part in daily patient care ‘rounds’ on inpatient floors, visiting each patient with the care team to help make medication decisions right at the bedside.

Once a medication has been decided, an order for that prescription is written and the clinical pharmacist will assess the medication order for appropriateness. After the pharmacist reviews the medication order, its entry into the computer system may be delegated to a registered pharmacy technician.

The prescription is then filled by one of LHSC’s medication-dispensing robots, or is manually filled by the pharmacy technician. Before the medication is sent back up to the patient’s floor, another technician will check that the prescription was filled correctly.

“As Registered Pharmacy Technicians (RPT), we are responsible for filling the right prescription for the right patient, and double-checking our work and each other’s work to maintain patient safety,” says Helen Ahrens, RPT.

The role of pharmacy technicians has advanced at LHSC, with technicians actively involved in medication distribution duties, enabling pharmacists to concentrate primarily on direct patient care activities.

When external pharmacists and other health care professionals need more information about medication, they can turn to LHSC’s LonDIS, a drug information service that provides support to both internal health professionals and external hospital and community pharmacies. Those that subscribe to this service receive the most current data about comparative effectiveness, safety and expense of drugs, and complementary health products.

Through programs like medication reconciliation and LonDIS, LHSC’s Pharmacy Department is making important contributions to enhancing patient safety.

“Each member of the pharmacy team supports the goal of improving the quality of life for all patients,” says Facca. “Through innovation and collaboration, we are all dedicated to providing pharmaceutical care and supportive practices with an emphasis on excellence in service, training, education and research.”