By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Hospital pharmacy is a specialized field of pharmacy that is integrated into the care of a medical center. These include centers such as a hospital, outpatient clinic, drug-dependency facility, poison control center, drug information center of residential care facility.
The profession involves choosing, preparing, storing, compounding and dispensing medications for patients in a medical environment. Another important area is the provision of advice to both patients and other health professionals about the safe and effective use of medicines.
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Aims of Hospital Pharmacy
The primary mission of hospital pharmacy is to manage the use of medications in hospitals and other medical centers. Goals include the selection, prescription, procuration, delivery, administration and review of medications to optimize patient outcomes. It is important to ensure that the right patient, dose, route of administration, time, drug, information and documentation are respected when any medication is used.
Role of Hospital Pharmacist
The role of the hospital pharmacist is varied and may include various tasks including:
- Devising specific medication plans that are individualized for patients
- Assisting physicians and other health professionals to make drug-based decisions
- Compounding medications for use in the hospital
- Helping patients to understand their medications and how to take them
- Conducting clinical trials to uncover new or modified treatments for rare diseases
- Providing medicines in emergency situations
- Assisting in specialized medical care, such as for cancer patients
Differences with Community Pharmacy
Although many of the tasks of a hospital pharmacist are similar to a community pharmacist who works in a community setting, there are some distinctive differences. These include:
- Increased interaction with prescribers and other health professionals
- Greater input in prescribing decisions about drugs and administration
- Larger team of pharmacists working together in the same institution
- Better access to medical records of patients
However, the patient contact for hospital pharmacists is often much less when compared to a pharmacist working in the community. Hospital pharmacies also usually stock a large variety of medications, including those for specialized purposes that may only be indicated in a controlled medical setting.
Hospital pharmacists are responsible for the compounding of many pharmaceutical products for patient administration.
Some of these formulations need to be sterile, such as when they are given in total parenteral nutrition (TPN) or for other drugs given intravenously, such as some antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents. This process is complex and requires pharmacists to be highly trained in the production of quality goods, in addition to adequately equipped facilities.
Organizations in Hospital Pharmacy
The Hospital Pharmacy Section of the Federation of International Pharmacists (FIP) was founded in 1957 and places an emphasis on the practice of pharmacy in hospitals, including relevant education and communication, on a global scale.
The members are encouraged to share their experience and identify and discuss global issues that can be improved in hospital pharmacy. This may include the development of new guidelines or standards of practice, including reviewing new guidelines suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO).
There are also other organizations for hospital pharmacists in each country. The aim when the members meet together is to discuss current issues in hospital pharmacy and create solutions and strategies for the future of the profession.
Reviewed by Jonas Wilson, Ing. Med.
Last Updated: Sep 7, 2016