I recently read an article titled A Tribute to Pharmacists on kevinmd.com. It was well written and talked about the physician's point of view when he gets paged. I started thinking about our relationships as healthcare professionals and how we all have different interactions with our patients and each and every one of our roles is important.

So while the pharmacist is rounding on their special table labeled "for pharmacist only", their laptop loaded with software I have never seen, head down and toiling away, it's important to recognize that they directly contribute to saving lives, improving outcomes and make it all more affordable...... (and I have a feeling I know which ICU he is talking about). 

Most of the clinical pharmacists I know are type A, detail-oriented (we have to be!), confidant beings who readily and easily spout off statistics from evidence-based medicine, come to rounds prepared with recommendations, and are usually juggling multiple projects at once. We are trained specifically in medicine with an expert knowledge of the chemical properties and interactions of drugs while other professions just get a surface level education. We are eager to apply our knowledge to the care of patients.

I have had the privilege of working with physicians, pharmacists, and health care practitioners at two of the top hospitals in the country. And let me tell you there are three truths that I always come back to 1). We all want the best for our patients 2). No one is immune from mistakes. 3). It takes a team.

I have seen an order and thought "holy smokes" as I quickly paged to get it changed. And the reply has been, 'I didn't know the correct dose but I knew you'd catch it!'. We all play a vital role in the healthcare system. I know I could never be a doctor - they have an enormous amount of knowledge stored in their brains and are able to balance and focus on many different things at once. Things get crazy in the pharmacy, but I am thankful that I am taking care of the drug side of things and don't have to worry about performing surgery, a biopsy, or making a complicated diagnosis. Nurses also have a tremendous amount of knowledge, patience, and compassion and they are truly the master jugglers in the healthcare model. Pharmacists are calling to ask when a dose was given, physicians are calling to check vitals and give orders, and on top of that, the nurses are taking care of sick people who are not at their best. We all bring something different to the table and we all have to work together to deliver the best care.

It's also important to look at situations from other points of views. In retail pharmacies, sometimes a pharmacist is paging because a patient's insurance won't pay, or because a patient is saying "that's not what I'm supposed to have", etc.... in health systems, we have formularies to juggle, policies about therapeutic substitutions, and many complicated regimens where timing is extremely important. We are also checking drug levels, interactions, and helping to monitor side effects. A doctor may not be calling back because he is in the middle of a code and a nurse may not be answering because she is administering a medication or helping a patient go to the bathroom.

In the more recent years, I have seen cultures shift as the health care model is morphing into a quality-centered, multidisciplinary approach to patient care. I've sat on many multidisciplinary committees where decisions and policies are made across the continuum of care and I am pleased to say that the administrators always make sure a representative from each discipline is at the table.

You are all appreciated and each and everyone of you plays an extremely important role and contributes uniquely to the delivery of patient care. None of us are in this alone - it's through a team approach that we will be the best practitioners that we can be.

My husband is a physician. We were out to dinner during his residency one evening and he got a page. He glanced at it and then went back to eating. "Are you going to answer that", I asked.

"It's just the pharmacy."


"Yeah, I'm sure it's not important".

"You could be holding up their prescription, the dose could be wrong, they could be in pain....!"

And he's called back ever since.

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PracticeJoanna Simmon