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On my second day of work experience in a hospital pharmacy I had the opportunity to go on a ward round with a newly qualified pharmacist. The ward was for the elderly and I observed her checking drug charts and reading medical notes to ensure the patients were on the most suitable medicine and to detect any potential problems. She also had access to patients’ test results on a computer system as it was very important to monitor certain parameters such as kidney and liver function. As she was newly qualified a more senior pharmacist came to check on her progress and to answer any questions she had. Initially newly qualified pharmacists only have one ward to deal with but this gradually increases; some pharmacists can have three or four wards to look after each day with each ward consisting of approximately thirty-five patients! The pharmacist’s other roles included working in the dispensary and in an anticoagulation clinic.
I then shadowed a medicines management technician on the acute medical unit. These technicians have a similar role to that of a pharmacist but they only have limited clinical knowledge, and most of their work needs to be approved by a pharmacist. They are, however, a very useful resource for a pharmacist as they enable pharmacists to perform more clinical roles rather than just checking whether a patient’s medical history is correct. When checking a patient’s drug history it is vital to verify the history from two sources such as talking to the patient and a consulting a GP printout. I was most surprised when I discovered that a doctor had put an aspirin dose of 50 mg as part of a patient’s medical history rather than 75 mg. This, for me, highlights the importance of a pharmacist’s role and how important it is to check the doctor’s work!