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Sharp Health News

Hidden health care heroes: creating 1,000s of doses of care

May 11, 2022

Viktoria Sarmiento and Abtin Eghbal of Sharp HealthCare

Viktoria Sarmiento, certified pharmacy technician, and Abtin Eghbal, pharmacist, in the clean room of Sharp's Centralized Hospital Pharmacy.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the pharmacists and technicians of the Sharp Centralized Hospital Pharmacy, which serves Sharp’s acute-care and specialty hospitals, would compound and deliver approximately 2,000 doses of IV medication each day. But once the hospitals began to fill due to COVID-19 surges, they were providing well over 3,000 doses, with nary a minute to rest or team member to spare. However, not once were safety or quality at risk.

“Being behind the scenes, the contribution of the pharmacy staff may go unnoticed by the general public,” says Abtin Eghbal, a pharmacist in the Centralized Hospital Pharmacy. “As IV pharmacists and technicians, our line of work involves critical levels of accuracy and sterility. The challenges of the pandemic brought a lot of stress, but we worked harder to ensure that the quality of our IV products were not affected, and we continued to provide the best patient care possible.”

Eghbal was joined by two other pharmacists and seven pharmacy technicians working in the pharmacy’s “clean room,” a controlled, sterile environment used to compound sterile drugs and infusions. They worked full days and several nights each week to fulfill the increased needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, all while coping with their personal stresses related to the challenges of the pandemic.

“The pandemic has been a time of hardship and uncertainty for many, especially essential workers,” Eghbal says. “I am proud of our team, which was able to keep up with the increased workload by being flexible, working longer hours, covering sick calls and dealing with being short-staffed for months.”

Positivity: as essential as safety, accuracy and sterility
According to Ali Zanial, director of the Pharmacy at Sharp Grossmont Hospital and one of the Centralized Hospital Pharmacy’s biggest fans, even with these challenges, there wasn’t a single patient who didn’t receive the IV medication they needed throughout the pandemic.

“The volume they were seeing during the surges had them pumping out doses — antibiotics, pain medications, sedatives — upward of 3,000 per day,” he says. “But despite all the struggles, all the shortages with supplies and long hours, they’ve managed to continue to provide the products for our patients in a highly safe manner and with an excellent attitude.”

Viktoria Sarmiento, a certified pharmacy technician in the Centralized Hospital Pharmacy, agrees that the positive attitudes of her teammates were crucial to their success. Admitting she wasn’t even aware of the sterile compounding side of pharmacy work before she became a pharmacy technician, she continues to be amazed by the work they do together.

“Our teamwork is like no other,” Sarmiento says. “Only we know how tough the work is, so we had to help uplift each other to get through the days. One of my co-workers would bring in donuts for everyone and another brought in crafts her sister made with words of encouragement. It was just what we needed to keep going and feel appreciated by those we worked with.”

From pharmacy to patient’s bedside
And Sarmiento’s co-workers weren’t the only ones who appreciated the efforts of her team. Zanial notes that many of the specialty IV medications Sharp’s hospitals used to treat patients during the pandemic were compounded at the Centralized Hospital Pharmacy.

Through a several-step process, which includes multiple safety checks from order to application, the pharmacy helped ensure every hospital within the Sharp system received the IV medications needed to treat the increasing number of patients each day. This allowed the clinicians to provide the extraordinary level of care people expect of Sharp and gave patients — both with COVID-19 and being treated for other conditions — what they needed to heal and go home.

“All of our pharmacists and technicians showed up to work every day, motivated and knowing that what they do makes a difference in our patients’ lives,” Eghbal says. “We faced many challenges. However, I am grateful for being part of such an exceptional team.”

This article is the fourth in a series of articles highlighting the hidden health care heroes of Sharp, whose dedication, compassion and commitment to excellence exemplify The Sharp Experience. Read the first, second and third articles in the series.

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