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When physicians and nurses in the Emergency Department have a question about a medication they need to administer to a patient urgently, they don’t have to look far for the answer. Pharmacists are now staffing the ED around the clock, providing support for clinicians and bolstering patient safety.
This new practice puts BWH at the forefront in safeguarding patients against medication errors.
“We are among only 3 percent of hospitals nationally that dedicate pharmacists to their EDs,” said Bill Churchill, MS, RPh, executive director of Pharmacy. “This is an area where pharmacists really can improve medication safety.”
Ron Walls, MD, chair of Emergency Medicine, agreed. “The addition of these outstanding professionals to our Emergency Department team greatly enhances our ability to deliver the safest possible care to our complex patient population,” he said.
At least one pharmacist is physically in the ED at all times to answer questions on medication dosage for elderly patients with renal failure, drug restrictions for pregnant patients and what medications should not be administered to a cancer patient with complex regiments, for example. “We answer these questions before the medications are administered,” Churchill said.
That support goes a long way in advancing safety. Since the initiative began in May, pharmacists have intervened more than 600 times and advised a practitioner to do something other than what he or she planned, such as discontinue an order or change a dosage. The practitioners have agreed with pharmacists’ recommendations more than 95 percent of the time.
“We’re here to help nurses and physicians safely deliver medications to ED patients,” said Abbie Erickson, PharmD, BCPS, senior pharmacist, who is one of the primary pharmacists in the ED along with Kristin Munz, PharmD, BCPS, senior pharmacist.
“It also helps for continuity of care,” said Munz. “We provide information to pharmacists on the inpatient units where patients from the ED are admitted so they know what medications the patient received in the ED.”
The ED has welcomed pharmacists whole-heartedly as the newest addition to the team. “We recognized the need for this support some time ago,” Walls said. “Working with Bill, Kristin and Abbie to bring it to reality has been incredibly rewarding. The program was an instant success.”
Erickson and Munz are in demand to present on their work and advise other hospitals considering adding pharmacists to their ED teams. Last week, Munz presented on the role of ED pharmacist at a University HealthSystems Consortium conference in Las Vegas.
“This initiative is one of the best things we’ve ever done in Pharmacy,” said Churchill, who aims to put together a multi-center study on the impact of clinical pharmacists who work in this area. “I am certain that we’ve done the right thing in the interest of patient safety and improving clinical care.”