Every October, Americans come together to celebrate National Pharmacist Month. It’s a great time to recognize and appreciate the invaluable contributions that pharmacists, technicians, and pharmacy teams make to patient care. This month offers plenty of opportunities to shed light on the vital role they play in helping people in our communities, hospitals, and beyond to live healthy lives.
What is National Pharmacist Month?
National Pharmacist Month, also known as American Pharmacist Month, was founded in 2004 from a desire to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of pharmacists in all corners of the United States.
But the celebration really began back in October 1925 with National Pharmacy Week, when messages were broadcast across the entire country to help spread awareness about pharmacists and the important role they play in our healthcare systems.
After nearly 80 years, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) expanded one week’s worth of celebration into an entire month dedicated to recognizing the significant impacts of pharmacists and their entire teams.
The American Pharmacists Association
The American Pharmacists Association is one of the oldest and most respected organizations representing pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the country. Established in 1852, it has consistently advocated for pharmacists while shining a light on their role in patient care. With over 60,000 members, APhA empowers pharmacy teams to deliver optimal healthcare services, keeping them at the forefront of emerging trends and advancements in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.
In the hospital setting, we look to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) to set the standards for the highest level of practice. They establish the mark that drives the pharmacy profession forward while giving us a vision of where it can go.
How Pharmacists, Pharmacy Techs, & the Entire Pharmacy Team Help Us
Today, pharmacy teams play a crucial role in the larger healthcare landscape, serving as essential resources for patients and other healthcare professionals. According to recent statistics, more than 90% of Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy, making pharmacists accessible providers for millions.
Prescriptions and OTC Medications
With 3.65 billion non-retail prescriptions dispensed in 2021 and over 5 billion retail prescriptions for a total of 8.7 billion,) pharmacists make an incredible difference in supporting patient health. They are well-versed in over-the-counter (OTC) medications as well as prescriptions and can help patients choose the right product that won’t negatively interact with other medications.
Dispensing medication may be what pharmacists and pharmacy techs are historically known for, but the profession has evolved significantly over the past several years, going far beyond filling prescriptions.
In the hospital setting, pharmacists are heavily involved in what is called medication reconciliation. When a pharmacy team gets an order, they look at all the medications the patient is taking, not just the prescriptions in front of them. They look at the patient’s prescription history, evaluate for drug interactions and side effects, and assess if it’s the correct dose and whether or not it’s the appropriate medication for the patient. All this is done to ensure the patient’s safety and help them live healthier lives.
From diabetes and high blood pressure to asthma and COPD to pain management and so much more, patients don’t have to cope with long-term illnesses alone. Pharmacy teams are available to offer their expertise, including things like understanding how to make the best use of medications, scheduling and documenting blood pressure tests, or helping to get blood glucose under control.
Education for Patients & Healthcare Providers
Pharmacy teams now play a key role in patient education. They sit down with patients to go over all their medications and medication history and walk them through everything they need to know.
In hospitals, this conversation begins at admission. Patients are in the hospital because they are unwell, making it hard to understand the sheer volume of information coming at them. The pharmacy team discusses their medications with the patient and prepare them for how to use the meds once they go home. They also make sure the patient knows who to call and how to contact them if they get home and are confused about any of it.
In addition to patient education, pharmacists also help educate other healthcare providers. Another part of the job that has become extremely important is the role they play in pharmacoeconomics. They help find the most cost-effective therapies for patients.
Covid, Flu, and Other Vaccinations
Pharmacy teams have been at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccination efforts. An article in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA) reported that pharmacists were responsible for over 50% of COVID-19 vaccinations in the US. Interventions provided by these pharmacists, pharmacy techs, and their teams helped to avert over 1 million deaths, more than 8 million hospitalizations, and $450 billion in healthcare costs.
Pharmacy teams also give patients guidance on other immunizations that may make sense for them. This could include preventions like pneumonia, shingles, HPV, or other vaccines to protect their health.
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