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Analysis

RWJBarnabas Develops ICU Pharmacy Team Model

By John Commins  
   August 05, 2019

A first-of-its-kind intensive training program gives non-specialist pharmacists confidence to deal with complex and critical medication issues for ICU patients.

RWJBarnabas Health System has developed a new, team-based model for intensive care unit pharmacists that improves medication response times for critically ill patients.

Writing in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management, researchers at the New Jersey-based health system said that general practice pharmacists working in the ICU are not comfortable responding to complex issues such as determining if a delirious patients needs to switch medications.

That lack of training can mean that medication adjustments can be delayed if a hospital pharmacist who specializes in critical care is off duty.  

To remedy this, the RWJBarnabas pharmacists at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton developed a first-of-its-kind, six-month intensive classroom and clinical training program for non-specialist pharmacists, that dealt with complications for patients on mechanical ventilators, infectious disease risk, and blood flow management.  

Eventually, all pharmacists on the newly formed Critical Care Pharmacist Team could provide the range of interventions that previously only critical care specialist could do.

"Before we tried this model, the non-specialty pharmacists in the ICU were often uncomfortable with clinical issues, which sometimes meant going to the bedside to assess the situation. As a result, relatively minor issues were frequently escalated with a call to the specialist, who was not always readily available," said lead researcher Liza Barbarello Andrews, a clinical associate professor at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.

"Our new model effectively empowers all of our pharmacists to act as specialists," she said.

In addition to improved patient outcomes, the pharmacists who took the training said they felt confident providing specialized levels of care, and that it gave them a greater sense of professional satisfaction.

Physicians and nurses in the ICU said pharmacy care improved with the team model, and that they saw a consistent, high level of care even when the specialist was not on duty, Andrews said, adding that the new model was adopted without significant cost and could benefit other community-based hospitals with limited resources.   

Researchers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton and Rutgers University also participated in the study.

“Our new model effectively empowers all of our pharmacists to act as specialists.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The six-month intensive classroom and clinical training program for non-specialist pharmacists covers complications for patients on mechanical ventilators, infectious disease risk, and blood flow management.

Eventually, all pharmacists on the newly formed Critical Care Pharmacist Team could provide the range of interventions that previously only critical care specialist could do.

The new model was adopted without significant cost and could benefit other community-based hospitals with limited resources. 


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