I was actively looking for a new job in Scotland or Ireland at the time. My current job was advertised on the HSE careers website: www.careersinhealthcare.ie. It appealed to me because as part of the job you got to complete a Masters in Clinical Pharmacy and depending on where you were placed in interview, choose which hospital you worked in (the scheme involved the major teaching hospitals in HSE West and South).
I applied online and was shortlisted for an interview which assessed the candidates suitability for the job itself and the Masters. I got a phone call a few days later to say I had been successful.
Describe a typical day?
The first thing I do when I go onto the ward is to look at the drugs the nurses have ordered from pharmacy. The nurses will have ordered drugs for new patients and this is one way of spotting any potential problems early on e.g. drug not stocked by the hospital, wrong dose or strength etc. If anything strange does show up I go to those patients first and address the problem.
The next thing on the list is to go and talk to all the new patients and get a list of all the medicines they were on before admission. Most of the time this is relatively straightforward (and quite enjoyable as most of the patients like to have a bit of a chat) but there are occasions when it still isn't clear, even after speaking to the GP, the patient and the community pharmacist.
The list I obtain is compared to the drugs prescribed by the doctor. If the lists don't match I first of all look to see if there is an explanation and if not then let the medical/nursing staff know. Sometimes a patient won't be on a drug that they really should be taking according to their medical history or vice versa and I will highlight this as well.
Once the new admissions are sorted out I try to go round all the other patients and check that the drugs they are prescribed are suitable. I'll also answer any questions they have regarding their medicines and pass anything I'm unable to answer on to the medical/nursing staff. How busy I am depends on how many new patients there are and whether or not they have complicated drug histories. I have other non-clinical commitments which need to be fitted in as well.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
Taking drug histories from new admissions: This involves talking to the patient/carer, GP or community pharmacist and looking at the medical notes in order to obtain an accurate list of the patients medications. This is compared to the drug chart and any differences are highlighted to the medical and nursing teams.
Reviewing drug therapy: The patients drug therapy is monitored and reviewed by the pharmacist throughout their stay in hospital. The pharmacist is responsible for ensuring that each drug is prescribed in such a way that is suitable for each individual patient. We do this by looking at the suitability of the drug itself, the dose, the formulation, interactions, side effects, monitoring requirement, the patients clinical condition and lab results etc.
Discharges: In many hospitals a pharmacist would review the patient's discharge prescription and talk to them about their medicines before they go home. Unfortunately, in this hospital we are under a lot of pressure due to the fact that we have an inadequate number of pharmacists for the size of the hospital. This means that we have to focus this aspect of patient care on those patients who are discharged on "high risk" drugs and those patients who are felt to be most at risk of running into problems with their medicines in the future.
As well as working on the ward I also work in the dispensary (checking drug orders and outpatient prescriptions) when required, work on projects the department is involved in (e.g. preparing a guide for the use of intravenous medicines), answer queries from the medical and nursing staff and liaise with pharmacy technicians to ensure the ward has the drugs they need on time.
What are the main challenges?
The fields of medicine and pharmacy are constantly developing: new clinical trials are published, new drugs developed and new ways of using medicines are introduced. It is a challenge to keep up to date with all this new information and it can appear quite daunting at first. I've recently started studying for a Master's in Clinical Pharmacy and have found it to be a great help as my learning has become more focused, manageable and "real" (I can relate it to actual patients).
On a day to day basis there is always something new or unexpected. These things could be interpreted as a challange but I like to think they keep me alert and interested in the job. In terms of the pharmacy department as a whole I think the main challenge is addressing how best we can meet patients needs and provide a quality service in the face of limited resources.
I enjoy the fact that there is a lot of patient contact and that we have the opportunity to make a real difference to people's lives through sometimes relatively simple actions. For example, just taking the time to sit down with someone and listen to their concerns or explain what each of their medicines is used for could make the difference between them taking medication or not. I found working as a community pharmacist quite an isolating experience and enjoy working alongside other healthcare professionals in my current role.
What's not so cool?
Some aspects of the job can be quite mundane e.g. checking drug orders but at the end of the day the ward needs the drugs and it is an essential service.
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
Communication skills - you need to be able to communicate information effectively in layman's terms to patients and on a professional level to other healthcare professionals.
Good interpersonal skills.
Conscientiousness - attention to detail is very important because even something that looks like a minor error/omission could have a big impact on the patient's health.
Analytical skills - you need to be able to work through information and decide if it is relevant and valid. You need to have an interest is peoples wellbeing and have a sense of your responsibility to them.