Pharmacists: An Essential Part of Patient Care During the Pandemic
One of the pillars of a great pharmacist is being well-rounded. Pharmacists must be able to seamlessly transition from filling prescriptions to administering immunizations, to interfacing with patients---and that is only the beginning. The University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy helps students develop this sense of balance through its continuously evolving curriculum.
Students like Class of 2019 graduate Emma Uchida have been able to use the knowledge from UKCOP to seamlessly integrate into the different aspects of pharmacy. She is currently a PGY2 Oncology Pharmacy Resident and was in her PGY1 Pharmacy Residency year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every month I work a different rotation so each one is completely different from the last,” Uchida said. “I work with physicians, nurses, and other care providers to collaborate on care for patients. I also follow up on patient care, provide patient counseling and attend meetings on research projects.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the scope of what pharmacists can do in the workplace--pharmacists have been giving vaccines, making hand sanitizers and providing patients with guidance with constantly changing information. Boston, Massachusetts, where Uchida works, was hit especially hard by the pandemic and she was ushered into a new role in a COVID-designated ICU.
“Massachusetts had been dealing with surges in the pandemic, which led to me to be asked to staff the ICU,” Uchida said. “Our hospital has been taking a lot of those patients and it was a great, challenging learning opportunity and my first taste at being a real pharmacist without as much preceptor oversight.”
Working in the ICU as a clinical pharmacist ended up being one of Uchida’s biggest obstacles in residency. The pandemic put more pressure on pharmacists and pharmacy residents, as well as an additional emotional toll, but the idea of patients recovering served as a silver lining for Uchida.
“Being put into an ICU for the coronavirus outbreak was very difficult. That was something that nobody could have expected,” Uchida said. “I’ve never been interested in being a critical care pharmacist, so it was completely outside my comfort zone, but I had a great support system at Massachusetts General Hospital and my education prepared me to be independent in those situations. Also, with the pandemic, there’s a lot of emotional weight with everything going on. Both patients and residents were isolated, so it was a very difficult situation.”
Experience in the ICU has reinforced the importance of patient-centered care for Uchida and has made the lessons she learned at UKCOP resonate even deeper.
“I don’t think I was able to fully appreciate my experience at UKCOP until I got here,” she said. “The hands-on clinical experience I gained has been so valuable. And one of the things the College really emphasizes is patient-centered care. Everything you do is all about the patient. No matter what you do, everything should be for the benefit of the patient. If not, it’s not really going to matter.”
Uchida’s UKCOP experience has provided her with a skillset and patient-centered approach that has allowed her to thrive in any situation. Her diverse background of work experiences has made her an even greater asset as a pharmacy resident in her hospital.
“You don’t need to know what you want to do the rest of your life,” Uchida said. “You can change your mind. I changed my career aspirations almost every year of pharmacy school. Some folks transition all the time even after school, and it’s ok to diversify. The possibilities with your PharmD are endless.”