The role of pharmacists has often been limited when it comes to health care, however, over the years, their role has proved to be an essential part of the healthcare system.
Fiona Padua, the chief pharmacist at Oshen-King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, says today’s pharmacists are assuming much bigger roles, for example, apart from interpreting medial prescriptions, pharmacists today act as educators and medical counsellors.
“Pharmacists in general do interpretation of prescriptions given by the doctors, and also deal with patient counselling because a patient needs counselling as you give them medication. You basically need to explain to them its management, and also how they will take and preserve the drugs,” she explains.
In terms of patient management, the role of a pharmacist has more to do with ensuring that the patient is availed with all the necessary information they need.
“When a patient comes to see us, usually they have many questions. With this, we make sure that we support and teach them how and when to take the medication, plus all the information they might need,” Padua notes.
Pharmacists at Oshen-King Faisal Hospital in Kigali do more than dispensing medicine. /Courtesy Photo
PHARMACISTS ARE MORE THAN JUST DISPENSERS
In the past, pharmacists were known to mostly read and interpret what doctors prescribe, but that role has evolved because now most of the counselling done for patients is done by pharmacists.
“We deal with patients on a personal basis; for my part, patients call me to inform me on how the medication is working, whether they are experiencing side effects or not, and then I advise them accordingly. We have become more than just dispensers because even machines can do that,” the pharmacist says.
Padua explains that what makes this role very fulfilling for them, especially, is when a patient comes back with feedback on how much their guidance helped in their recovery.
“When you get such feedback, you feel like what you are doing is really more than just giving medication and indeed helping a patient.”
She also highlights the distinct significance of pharmacy saying that it is very crucial to the recovery of the patient.
“Pharmacy is very important because the way a patient takes medication matters a lot in how fast and well a patient recovers. Whether medicine is to be taken before or after meals, all these details can affect how the medication works in your body. So when a patient comes to us, what we do is counsel them and most importantly give them tips on how to ensure that they are taking their medication the right way.”
Another vital role Padua says Oshen-King Faisal pharmacists play is their ability to keep up with the latest drug trends.
Physicians are very busy, so, as pharmacists we need to be in touch with the current trends in medicine because we have more time to research and find out more about up-to-date medication, she says.
“Sometimes a doctor might call you and consult for a particular drug for a certain infection, this is why as a pharmacist you need to be up to date and make sure that you are in touch with what’s happening with the latest drug trends.”
She goes on to emphasize the need for pharmacists to be well informed such that in times when patients need more information, they are able to provide them with what they need.
The future of pharmacy
When one looks at the future, Padua believes that pharmacists are going to take more active roles in the management of medication and obviously prescription since they are currently able to do over the counter medication for some of the ailments that don’t necessarily require visiting a doctor.
She also says that more initiatives should be introduced in pharmacy to make the profession stronger noting that Oshen King Faisal, plans on expanding their pharmacy services by introducing a private area for counselling.
“Some patients have chronic diseases and obviously there are some diseases that have stigma like someone buying anti-depressants, some may get scared of asking for it or even be open to ask all the questions they might be having. So we observed this need and we are working on addressing it.”
Padua also prides in the unique services offered by their pharmacy saying that Oshen King Faisal is the only hospital that does customization of pediatric doses.
“Sometimes a patient, mostly the young children need a dose but that dose can let’s say only be available in a 200mg tablet yet a baby cannot swallow this, so we are able to make it into syrup. We get patients from other hospitals and do their individual dosing.”
Another thing she says is that the hospital is currently the only center in Kigali that mixes drugs for cancer patients something that eases access to treatment for patients who stay in Kigali yet had to previously only get medicine from Butaro cancer center.