Over the last few months the importance of pharmacy operations has been spotlighted, with the need for a vaccine to help protect individuals against COVID-19 transmission.
The distribution of vaccinations are one of many functions for pharmacy personnel, who are recognized during Pharmacy Week, Oct. 18-24. At Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, pharmacy operations over the past year include over 183,000 outpatient prescriptions filled, over 83,000 Compounded Sterile Products (CSPs), which are pharmaceutical preparation of drugs to meet individual patient needs and 906,000 unit doses of pharmaceuticals.
Pharmacy Week, celebrated the third full week in October, acknowledges pharmacy contributions to patient care in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other healthcare settings.
“Everything you receive at home, through outpatient, or all the care you receive in the (inpatient) wards come through here,” said U.S. Army Spc. Richard Martinez, a pharmacy technician at the LRMC pharmacy. “Everything gets validated, scanned, checked, we make sure everything is good to go before it hits the shelves, before it hits your cabinet.”
The Support section of the pharmacy is the first to receive pharmaceuticals and a sentinel for drug recalls, putting quality and safety at the center of their operation.
“Every day, we make sure we have the proper medications needed. If (a new medication) is needed, we’ll find it and make sure we have it for those warfighters coming here from downrange,” said Martinez. “It's always something new every day. I interact with every department, clinic and ward throughout the hospital. It's actually very rewarding being able to give people what they want and what they need.”
As a frontline supervisor, U.S. Army Sgt. Tammy Brown says she is driven by the patients she assists at the Outpatient Pharmacy section, usually the only section of pharmacy patients are familiar with.
“(Working in Outpatient Pharmacy) allows me to see the impact of my work and how it helps better the Soldiers and civilians,” said Brown. “It's really important to see that they progress and improve their health through treatment and really nice to know that I have something to do with that.”
According to Brown, the most important aspect for any health care professional is ensuring patients are getting better and stronger. For the Army, it means getting Soldiers back to the fighting force. Although home deliveries aren’t available in Germany for pharmaceuticals, multiple clinics throughout Europe serve over 200,000 beneficiaries, including medically evacuated Service Members, U.S. civilians, U.S. contractors and members of 56 Coalition Forces from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
“We're making sure that we're taking care of each patient and giving them the best health care possible,” said Brown. “The two main objectives when dealing with patients is quality care and patient safety.”
To keep patients safe, outpatient pharmacy operations go through various steps to comply with doctor’s orders, allergies and ensuring no contraindications exist, if the patient takes more than one medication.
Staffed with a workforce of about five dozen Soldiers, Airmen, Civilians and local nationals, LRMC pharmacists also provide medication management services, self-care kits for tobacco cessation and are encouraged to maximize their scope of practice as a doctor of pharmacy.
In Italy, the Vicenza Army Health Clinic leverages privileged pharmacists’ scope of practice to improve access to care and Soldier readiness.
“Change usually brings unease and discomfort. However, it is also a conduit for opportunity, and that is what we are doing in our pharmacy section,” said U.S. Army Maj. Sean O’Brien, chief of Ancillary Services at Vicenza AHC. “It’s an open-door for optimizing pharmacy operations. We are introducing programs that have never existed before at Army medical treatment facilities to allow pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to practice at the top of their licenses.”
As a vaccine is developed to protect and minimize the threat of COVID-19 transmission, pharmacy operations will remain instrumental to the health and wellbeing of Service Members and their families.