Pharmacy (from the Greek "pharmakon" = drug) is the health profession that links the health sciences with the chemical sciences, and it is charged with ensuring the safe and effective use of medication. The scope of pharmacy practice includes more traditional roles such as compounding and dispensing medications, and it also includes more modern services related to patient care, including clinical services, reviewing medications for safety and efficacy, and providing drug information. Pharmacists, therefore, are the experts on drug therapy and are the primary health professionals who optimize medication use to provide patients with positive health outcomes.
Pharmacists, then, are health professionals who practice the art and science of pharmacy. In their traditional role, pharmacists typically take a request for medicines from a prescribing health care provider in the form of a medical prescription and dispense the medication to the patient and counsel them on the proper use and adverse effects of that medication. Pharmacists also participate in disease state management, where they optimize and monitor drug therapy or interpret medical laboratory results in collaboration with physicians and/or other health professionals. Pharmacists have many areas of expertise and are a critical source of medical knowledge in clinics, hospitals, medical laboratories, and community pharmacies throughout the world.
Keeping in mind the expertise and depth of knowledge a Pharmacist is expected to have to be able to practice their art of pharmacy adeptly, how is it - then - that the profession often goes unnoticed or under-appreciated? No, we DON'T just count pills and, no, we cannot just "slap a label on a bottle" and call it a day. The profession of the pharmacist is certainly one to be proud of as it requires expertise in several different disciplines and truly can be considered an art form. Making the general population aware of the tremendous responsibility in the hands of their friendly neighborhood pharmacists (as well as pharmacists everywhere) was the mission of Rho Chi's (and other organizations', including APhA-ASP) visit to Rockefeller Center to promote the profession.
And so we did. Dressed in our white MCPHS lab jackets, we left Boston at 11:30 PM and trekked down to New York City arriving at about 3:30 AM! After we all had a cup of the "World's Best Coffee" (all from different establishments, mind you) we headed down to the standing areas of both the Today Show and Good Morning America! With our colorful signs campaigning: "Know Your Medicine, Know Your Pharmacist" we promoted the importance of our profession and its impact on our patients' lives. The unprecedented demand for prescription and non-prescription drugs has challenged our profession, and although automation and pharmacist extenders may have increased dispensing efficiency, the overall demand for pharmaceutical care will remain high. Not only this, but, as medications become increasingly more in number, effectiveness, ubiquity, and cost, pharmacists’ role in assuring medications' proper use has become even more important. Recognition that safety and quality in medication use are essential has led to positive steps to integrate the clinical pharmacists' role into institutional care. It is this same recognition of safety and quality that has occurred in the clinical settings that needs to be emphasized to the general public; as pharmacists we truly are invaluable reservoirs of information at our communities' fingertips and it's about time they see that! This was our mission at Media Day and Matt Lauer certainly seemed convinced! :o)
Interestingly enough, though, it is often the same people who do not understand that their pharmacist is an integral resource that - upon realization of the powers of the pharmacist - will ask their pharmacist about EVERYTHING. This is what we want, though! With the incompleteness of electronic medical records and phenomena such as "pharmacy shopping," it is imperative that we build these relationships with our patients and make them feel comfortable enough to TELL US EVERYTHING (just as long as they don't SHOW us everything)...
A study done by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) found that only 35% of consumers know their pharmacist’s name. This is surprising since your pharmacist is one of the easiest members of your healthcare team to reach...
The study found that people who know their pharmacist’s name may be safer with their medicines. These people are more likely to:
- Tell their pharmacist the names of other medicines they take
- Read product labels all the time
- Know the main ingredients of the prescription medicines they are taking
- Use their pharmacist as a source of information on both prescription and over-the-counter medicines
So take a simple step towards safer use of your medicines: Introduce yourself to your pharmacist and learn his or her first name; no appointment or co-pay needed. Remember: Know Your Medicine, Know Your Pharmacist!