“The everyday work of a hospital pharmacy team is high-stakes, with life-saving implications for our patients,” says Zack Dumont, President of the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists (CSHP). “Unfortunately, many people have no idea what a hospital pharmacy professional does! Whether you know it or not, there’s a highly trained team of directors, managers, pharmacists, technicians, and assistants in the hospital making sure you receive the best, safest medications for your needs.”
As trusted medication experts, hospital pharmacy professionals make vital contributions to the healthcare system. Pharmacy technicians and assistants play essential roles in the dispensary, compounding medications in-hospital and preparing IV admixtures. Pharmacy technicians also conduct Best Possible Medication Histories, ensuring that the interprofessional care team has accurate and up-to-date information about which medications patients have been taking at home. This goes a long way towards preventing drug interactions and ensuring medication continuity for patients in hospital. Meanwhile, for a hospital pharmacist, it’s all part of a day’s work to develop pharmaceutical care plans to suit each patient’s unique needs, reconcile medications on admission and discharge, prevent drug therapy problems, and educate patients to make sure they understand and adhere to their medication regimens. Quality interprofessional care is incomplete without hospital pharmacy professionals ensuring safe, effective medication use.
A robust body of evidence shows that hospital pharmacists’ expertise yields major benefits, both for individual patients and for Canada’s healthcare system. Team-based care involving clinical hospital pharmacists decreases readmissions and lengths of hospital stays, improves patients’ medication adherence, and saves the healthcare system significant financial costs. Examples abound, but one recent study estimated that by preventing adverse drug events, the interventions of a Canadian hospital pharmacist saved their hospital up to $1.37 million in a 6-month time frame, while preventing an additional 867 days in the hospital for surgical patients.
This work is complicated by drug shortages – a problem that existed long before COVID-19, but one the pandemic has exacerbated. Hospital pharmacy teams typically spend hours each week sourcing alternative drugs for their patients when shortages cause problems. They also carefully triage inventory to ensure an equitable supply of medications based on each patient’s needs. At the federal level, pharmacists from organizations including CSHP participate in Health Canada’s Tier Assignment Committee, developing national strategies to manage shortages and conserve drugs with minimal disruption to patient care. In grappling with issues as complex as drug shortages, the knowledge and ingenuity of medication experts is essential.
To the already weighty responsibilities hospital pharmacy teams carry, the pandemic has added major pressures. Each day of this long crisis, pharmacy teams have served on the frontlines, caring for patients, championing evidence-based care in the face of rampant misinformation, and preparing and administering COVID-19 vaccines on a massive scale. They are exhausted. “Faced with widespread hospital protests and threats of harassment, hospital pharmacy teams have continued to show up each day to deliver outstanding patient care,” says Jody Ciufo, CEO of CSHP. “The dedication of Canadian hospital pharmacy professionals is nothing short of extraordinary. These individuals are heroes.”