Hospital pharmacists are experts in the field of medicines. They are responsible for the purchase, manufacture, dispensing, quality testing, and supply of all the medicines used in the hospital. They work closely with medical and nursing staff to ensure patients receive the most appropriate treatment and provide help and advice to patients in all aspects of their medicines. They advise on the selection of medicines and the dose and route of administration for individual patients. They provide information about potential side effects and ensure that new treatments are compatible with existing medication. In addition, they monitor the effects of treatment to ensure that it is safe and effective.
As the medicines expert in the healthcare team, you are able to provide advice about the effects that medicine or a combination of medicines may produce. You will give advice on dosage, suggest the most appropriate form of medication – such as a tablet, injection, ointment, inhaler – and discuss with the medical staff the potential problems patients may experience with their medicines.
You will be expected to provide specialist advice on medicines for patients with conditions such as heart failure, kidney or liver disease, and pregnant or breast-feeding women who should not take some medicines. As well as working on the wards with patients, there are several roles that are undertaken within the pharmacy itself. The main role in the dispensary is to “professionally check” all prescriptions to ensure that the dispensed medicines are appropriate and safe for the individual patient. In the medicines information department, pharmacists use a range of reference sources, including electronic databases and the Internet, to provide detailed information to healthcare professionals and patients about all aspects of medicine usage. New drugs are evaluated and compared to existing treatments before the hospital decides whether to purchase them.
Pharmacists are also involved in the manufacture of medicines when ready-made preparations are not available. For example, certain cancer treatments and intravenous feeding solutions need to be tailor-made under sterile conditions for individual patients.
Many pharmacists combine their professional role with some form of managerial responsibility, and also often will be involved in monitoring and reporting on expenditure from the budget for medicine usage within the hospital.