The pharmacy team plays a big role in patient care at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

“Our pharmacists here at the QEII, they spend up to three quarters of their time nowhere near the pharmacy dispensary,” says Anne Hiltz, senior director of the QEII pharmacy and renal program.

Drug distribution is just one of the duties the team performs. They also spend time in patient care areas as part of the interdisciplinary health care team, working with nurses and doctors.

“The pharmacy team is a critical part of the emergency department team,” says Dr. Sam Campbell, chief of the QEII emergency.

Hiltz says one of the first and most critical things the pharmacy team does is take an accurate medication history of the patient before they are admitted to the hospital.

The medication history is then reviewed by the pharmacy team for discrepancies, or any drug related problems.

“For example, there's some drugs that the dose has to be lowered if patients have kidney failure,” says Hiltz. “So the pharmacist will pick up on that and they'll make recommendations for, for example, the dose of those drugs to be lowered.”

Dr. Campbell says it's common to see patients who are taking a whole list of different medications, making the pharmacy team's keen eyes crucial.

“It's really important that we can identify ones that could be hurting them and that need to be stopped and the ones that they really need to keep them healthy,” says Campbell.

Education is also a big part of the equation, especially when a patient is discharged from hospital.

“They teach the patients about their medication so that the patients don't experience any adverse reactions and end up back in the hospital because one of the main reasons for patients to come to emergency department is actually adverse reactions to medications,” says Hiltz.

Hiltz says many people don't even realize hospitals have pharmacy teams with highly specialized knowledge.

“Every healthcare professional has their area of expertise, pharmacists are experts in drugs,” says Hiltz.

“It's just critical, I don't know what we did before they were there,” says Campbell.

Research and academic programs are also a big part of the QEII pharmacy teams’ work. Hiltz says they support over 150 different clinical trials and do research initiated by staff.