A friend of ours here at Apex Medical is a newborn ICU nurse in a mid-sized city university hospital. You could say it’s a small job – tiny babies, teeny veins, infinitesimal drug dosages. Of course, the stakes are not small for these babies or their parents. Many of these kids face huge challenges when they’re born and their survival depends on the skills and judgment of the medical professionals that attend them. Premature babies suffer from a panoply of conditions which require intense surgical and drug therapies – everything from antibiotics to blood thinners, pain killers to heart medicines, lipids and hormones. A delicate balance must be maintained when administering these drugs. Correct combinations and accurate dosages are crucial; there is not much of a margin for error when treating a 600 gram newborn.
But our friend breathes a little easier at work because her unit has its own in-house pharmacist. Prior to this innovation nurses had to call the hospital pharmacy to get their questions answered. They never knew what the situation was when someone picked up the phone: am I speaking to a pharmacist or a tech? How knowledgeable is this person about my particular area of medicine? Do they have the time to attend to my question or are they busy with 100 other tasks? The dedicated NICU pharmacist knows their field. He understands the drug protocols. He is available for one-on-one counseling with physicians and nurses and possibly most important: he can save valuable time when special drugs need to be procured or questions must be answered before treatment can begin.
The world of modern drug therapy is complex and contradictory. Modern drugs can be miraculous life-savers which, in the wrong hands, can injure, maim and kill. The modern pharmacist has evolved from drug dispenser to one of therapeutic drug counselor. She is no longer so much tied to the medicine as to the patient, adding an important layer of knowledge and safety for patients and medical professionals alike.