Pharmacists are essential players on clinical care teams — the groups of health care professionals who provide coordinated care specific to each patient’s needs and circumstances.
While many patients expect to see nurses, doctors, X-ray technicians and physical therapists during a hospital stay, some may be surprised to learn the many ways that pharmacists are involved in their care.
Decades ago, the job of a pharmacist centered on dispensing and compounding medications. Over the years, their role has expanded to include much more direct contact with patients and other health care providers. In fact, some pharmacists don’t dispense medication at all. Many focus on monitoring and educating patients, as well as collaborating with other providers to optimize care and plan for discharge.
Caring for patients in the hospital
Pharmacists play an important role in caring for patients throughout their hospital stay. When patients are admitted, pharmacists gather detailed information about medical conditions and current medications to share with the rest of the care team. The information is then used to develop individualized treatment plans.
Some patients, especially those with heart or other chronic conditions, may already be taking several medications before they arrive. Often, new drugs are introduced as part of their care plan. Along with advising doctors, nurses and other providers on the optimal use of medication therapies, pharmacists actively monitor patients’ health and progress during their stay. They also educate patients and prepare them to transition from hospital to home or another care facility.
Helping patients manage medications at home
Adhering to a complicated regimen, especially for those taking several prescribed drugs, can be difficult. If patients don’t continue their medications once they leave the hospital, they have a higher chance of being readmitted.
“As part of a transitional care team, pharmacists educate patients — and, in many cases, their caregivers — on proper use of medication and help them understand the importance of taking medications as prescribed,” explains Mimi Nguyen, pharmacy director at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “They also work with other providers to try to minimize barriers that make it difficult for patients to stick to their regimen once they leave the hospital.”
Understanding the array of social and personal factors at play, pharmacists provide education, support services and resources designed to enhance patients’ ability to adhere to their medication regimen. Prior to discharge, pharmacists help them understand normal versus abnormal side effects, and what to do if they forget a dose. They also help determine the best way to help each patient remember to take their prescriptions, as well as how a care partner can provide support.
“As pharmacists, our key goal is to help optimize care for every patient admitted to our hospital,” Nguyen explains. “The collaboration of specialists, including pharmacists, on clinical care teams ensures the best possible outcomes for our patients.”
For the news media: To talk with Mimi Nguyen about the role of pharmacists in patient care for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.