Strong Mentors Pharmacists Seeking to Fill Emergency Department Role

September 17, 2007

"This initiative...means having a specially trained pharmacist as a colleague on the emergency care team, giving expert advice."

Hospitals across the country are eager to learn what Strong Memorial Hospital has known for several years: having a specially trained pharmacist on the emergency medical team improves care and reduces errors. Hoping to capitalize on Strong’s experience, more than 50 hospitals competed for 20 spots in a new mentorship program directed by Daniel Hays, Pharm.D., the hospital’s lead emergency department pharmacist, and Rollin J. (Terry) Fairbanks, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The Emergency Department Pharmacy Mentoring Program was launched by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists at its annual summer meeting. It was inspired by Fairbanks’ research on the impact of emergency department (E.D.) pharmacists on the reduction of potential medication errors and adverse events in emergency care. Fairbanks work, which is supported by a $600,000 grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, will result in the development of a toolkit to help hospitals implement E.D. pharmacist programs.

“This program provides critically important support for pharmacists who seek to optimize medication use in the emergency department,” said Cynthia Brennan, Pharm.D., president of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists “Patients in the E.D. often are taking multiple medications and present complex medical challenges. As such, these patients need and deserve high quality care from pharmacists who are medication-use experts.”

The six-month mentorship program began with an educational session last June and includes periodic teleconferences, Website resources, and interaction among participants and mentors, including Hays, Fairbanks, and two E.D. pharmacists from other hospitals.

Only about 3 percent of U.S. hospitals have dedicated E.D. pharmacists, despite its proven impact as a patient safety intervention, Fairbanks said. Strong is the only western New York-area hospital to have a pharmacist on its emergency care team. To qualify for the mentorship program, hospitals had to make a commitment to initiate an E.D. pharmacist program. The end result will be 20 new E.D. pharmacy programs starting across the country within the next year.

“This initiative goes beyond having a satellite pharmacy located in the E.D. It means having a specially trained pharmacist as a colleague on the emergency care team, giving expert advice,” Fairbanks said. “It has truly stepped up the level of care in our E.D.”

Response to the mentorship and requests for information has been overwhelming, according to Hays, who receives emails daily from pharmacists and hospitals interested in starting similar programs.

“The interest in E.D. pharmacy is similar to that of critical-care pharmacy 10 years ago. We’re at the front end of this wave in emergency medicine,” said Hays. “Having someone there that is really focused on and knowledgeable about medications been proven to improve patient safety in intensive care units and in pediatrics, and now we are proving it makes a difference in emergency medicine.”

Pharmacists from the following organizations are participating in the E.D. mentorship program:

  • Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
  • Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System, Calif.
  • John Stroger, Jr., Hospital of Cook County, Chicago
  • Exempla Good Samaritan Hospital, Lafayette, Colo.
  • St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford, Conn.
  • Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, Fla.
  • University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy, Knoxville
  • William Beaumont Hospital, Troy, Mich.
  • Mission Hospitals, Asheville, N.C.
  • Columbus Children’s Hospital, Ohio
  • Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital, Portland, Ore.
  • Legacy Emanuel Hospital, Portland, Ore.
  • Geisinger Health System, Dansville, Pa.
  • York Hospital, York, Pa.
  • University of Utah Hospital, Salt Lake City
  • St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Houston, Texas
  • Sentara HealthCare, Newport News, Va.
  • Meriter Hospital, Madison, Wisc.
  • St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland 

Already established as a resource for training pharmacists, the University of Rochester Medical Center is among a handful of organizations to offer an American Society of Health-System Pharmacists-accredited pharmacy residency program in emergency medicine, according to Curtis E. Haas, Pharm.D., director of Pharmacy for Strong Health and the University of Rochester Medical Center. Pharmacy residency programs prepare pharmacists for active roles in patient care, including specialty services such as critical care, organ transplant and pediatrics.

For Media Inquiries:
Lori Barrette
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