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What does the pharmacist do in Intensive Care?

The pharmacy team in Intensive Care includes Consultant Pharmacists, clinical and specialist pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Consultant and specialist pharmacists in particular have a very detailed knowledge of medications in critical illness. There are 4 main things that the pharmacy team help with: reviewing patients' medications, supplying medication, offering training and education to ICU staff, and supporting research. 

Medication review: One of the ICU pharmacy team's main roles is to look at your medication and make sure that everything that's prescribed is appropriate and safe in terms of the dose, the way it's given, how often it's given and if there are any side effects. 

On admission to ICU: The pharmacist will review your normal medications when you are admitted to Intensive Care, to make sure that any new medications are compatible with anything you were prescribed at home. They will check to see if you have any allergies.The team may contact your GP, your community pharmacy or your family, to make sure that we have a full list of your medications. It is common for some (and often many) of patients' normal medicines to be stopped on admission to Intensive Care; the pharmacist will offer advice on if and when they should be restarted. 

Every day during your ICU stay: The pharmacist will review your medication and treatment plan every day, to make sure that these are carefully tailored to your individual needs. They do this because your medication and treatments may be quite complicated, and because the way your body deals with medications can change daily when you are very ill. 

Supplying medications: The pharmacy team have a key role in making sure that the supply chain for medications is maintained. These include sedatives (drugs to keep you comfortable and sleepy whilst attached to the ventilator, breathing machine or life support machine), painkillers and antibiotics, etc. The pharmacist also works very closely with the dietitian to make sure that any patients receiving Total Parenteral Nutition (the liquid feed that is given directly into the patient's bloodstream via a drip in the neck) receive a treatment that is tailored to their individual needs.During the pandemic, the pharmacy team have also provided support to the ICU nurses, by preparing various medications that need to be given into a vein or "drip" (intravenous medications). 

Training, support and education for ICU staff: The pharmacy team play a key role in training and education, by providing in-depth information and advice on medications. This may include, for example, information on how to dilute and safely administer intravenous medications (medications that are given directly into a vein or "drip"), or advice on medications for patients with kidney or liver problems (which somtimes means that they are broken down differently or more slowly by the body). 

Supporting research: Research has been vital during the pandemic, to help identify the most promising treatments for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19. During the pandemic, a great many patients have been entered into research studies, and the pharmacy team have played a key role in this crucial work. You can find out more about some of the research that's being done across the UK by clicking here (although not all of them are pharmaceutical or focused on the ICU). 








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