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What Does an Inpatient Pharmacist Do?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated May 17, 2024
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A pharmacist dispenses medication that has been prescribed to patients by their doctors. It is the responsibility of the pharmacist to make sure that the correct drug, as described on the prescription, is being given to the patient. Most people only encounter this professional when they go to a drug store to get prescription medicine. In a hospital setting, any medication that patients require is dispensed by an inpatient pharmacist. He or she must ensure that people receive the right medication at the correct time and in the proper dose.

It is not uncommon for hospitalized patients to need frequent changes in their medication. Doses may be increased, stopped, or replaced often as treatment progresses. It is up to the doctors to determine exactly what each patient requires, but it is up to the inpatient pharmacist to make sure the right medicine is dispensed.

If an inpatient pharmacist feels that the doctor has made an error with a patient’s prescription, he or she must contact the doctor immediately. It is possible that the doctor may have ordered an inappropriate drug. Most often, though, the pharmacist will discover a problem related to interactions with other medications the patient is taking or with the dosage level. The pharmacist cannot alter the doctor’s prescription without the doctor’s approval.

In addition to making sure that the medication dispensed is safe and appropriate, the inpatient pharmacist is part of the hospital’s pain management team. He or she has the responsibility to make sure that an appropriate level of medication is dispensed and that the frequency of dosing is acceptable. Many hospitalized patients are given IV pain medication, frequently opiates, through a patient-controlled electronic pump. The inpatient pharmacist needs to be aware of what the patients are being given and the amounts being used by each person.

Along with controlling and monitoring patient medications, the inpatient pharmacist makes sure that each patient in the hospital is supplied with a full day’s dosage of all necessary drugs every morning. These are normally provided to the nursing staff very early in the day, and are used to care for each hospitalized person for the next 24 hours. Each dose is typically packaged and identified individually, so all the nursing staff has to do is to give the medication to the patient.

Many hospitals have implemented a computerized drug checkout system, which the inpatient pharmacist must use for every drug dispensed. If a discrepancy is found, he or she is responsible for reporting it to the appropriate hospital administrator immediately. The inpatient pharmacist must also log all drugs in and out of the pharmacy, be sure stocks are replenished when they get low, and properly dispose of any outdated drugs.

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