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What Your Pharmacist Can Do For You

Josh tramel I am often asked by my family, friends, and patients about my role as a pharmacist in a hospital setting. My patient care role has many facets to it, and what I do is quite different from what the average person might have in mind.

Many people have a particular image of pharmacists as medication experts in white coats who work behind community pharmacy counters to dispense prescriptions. I’ve found that patients often assume that this is exactly what pharmacists who work in hospitals and clinics do as well. While some pharmacy staff in hospitals and clinics dispense medications, we also have additional roles that can significantly improve the health and well-being of our patients.

Making Sure Your Medications are Tracked Properly

One of our most important duties is medication reconciliation, which is the process of comparing a patient's new medication orders to all of the medications that the patient has been taking. If you are ever admitted to the hospital or visit a clinic for the first time, it is very important that the name, dosage, and schedule of the medications you take at home are identified correctly. This can be challenging because patients often see multiple doctors and fill their prescriptions at different pharmacies. That’s why it’s so important to keep a medication list and bring it with you to every trip to see a new doctor, to an urgent care clinic, or to the emergency room. This is where a pharmacist can step in. Pharmacists will talk to you or your family members, contact your pharmacy, or look at your past hospital and clinic visits to make sure the medications given during your stay or prescribed for you to take home are accurate.

A Key Member of Your Hospital or Clinic Care Team

Pharmacists also work on teams with doctors and nurses to ensure that you receive the best care possible. We review the medicines you are taking and make recommendations to physicians about which medicines should be continued, which should be discontinued, and which new medicines should be prescribed. This process allows your medications to work as well as possible while minimizing side effects.

Pharmacists also make many dosing adjustments to medications that you take in the hospital, including antibiotics, seizure medications, and blood thinners. For example, if you are prescribed blood thinners, such as warfarin, we will manage and adjust your dose based on laboratory results. This is important to help prevent bleeding episodes, blood clots or strokes.

Sometimes when you are admitted to the hospital, your doctor may prescribe intravenous nutritional support because your gastrointestinal tract may not be functioning properly. A pharmacist can determine the amount of total calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fats that your body needs. We then design a nutritional program that is given into your veins to provide you with vital and balanced nutrients. This process, called parenteral nutrition, allows your body to get the nutrients it needs to fully heal, decreasing the time that you have to spend in the hospital.

Pharmacists in clinics also help to educate patients about the management of common diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and asthma, including advising patients on the best diabetic supplies and how to use inhalers effectively and safely.

Although this is just a brief overview of what pharmacists in hospitals and clinics can do for you, I hope it’s helped to show the many ways that we can help you to get healthy and stay healthy. In collaboration with doctors and nurses, pharmacists are always striving to improve our patient’s lives.

By Joshua Tramel, Pharm.D., PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident, North Mississippi Medical Center, Tupelo