Ask A Student Diplomat: What It’s Like Being A Pharmacy Intern In A Hospital Setting

Kathryn KerrQuestion: What are some experiences you had on a rotation in a hospital?

Sarah Pruett: Being a hospital intern has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences of my life. My day usually consists of answering phone calls, preparing IVs, and making sure the Pyxis machines (medication dispensing machines) are filled throughout the hospital. Although this part of my job sometimes can be monotonous, I am fortunate because I also have had the opportunity to intern with the pharmacist in the emergency room. The days I work in the ER can be strenuous, but they also happen to be my favorite.

My main role in the emergency room is to obtain the patients' medication histories. To do that, I talk to either the patient, a family member or friend of the patient who is familiar with the patient's medications, or the patients' pharmacist. Once everything is confirmed and approved by the pharmacist, I get to write a note in the patient's file. The note will usually contain details about how the patient is taking his or her medications, whether he or she is compliant with the medication regimen, his or her preferred pharmacy, observations I make while talking to the patient, and additional important information that the rest of their health care team should be made aware of during the patients' stay in the hospital.

Along with obtaining medication histories, I also get to assist the pharmacist if there are any codes called throughout the hospital. A code is a term used to alert the hospital staff of various emergencies. For example, a Code Blue would mean that the patient's heart and breathing stopped. When a code is called, I stop what I am doing and find the pharmacist. Usually in a code situation I either get the supplies that are needed for the patient (like syringes and certain drugs), go through the home medications that the patient has brought with them, or assist the pharmacist with anything else they may need me to do. During a code, things can become intense, but it's important to stay calm and focus on the task at hand.

I have seen many different people and disease states walk into and out of the emergency room. People have come in with missing fingers, broken bones, rashes, and much more. Unfortunately, I have encountered numerous deaths while interning. Whether it be a heart attack, a drug overdose, or a stroke, it can be disheartening and depressing, but on those days when it seems like too much to bear, I try to remember the people who I have helped. I think of the people who smiled at me because I gave them a warm blanket, the people I made laugh because I told them I am "just an intern," or that one time I was in the room when someone gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

I have learned so much while working in the emergency room. I have gained a lot of hands on experience with a variety of medications and learn on the job. It can be a fast-paced environment, but I love the excitement that comes with it. I get to interact with not only my pharmacist, but also the nurses, paramedics, physicians, laboratory technicians, respiratory therapists, and more. It has been an amazing opportunity to work on a team and see the collaboration of health care professionals first hand. If you are thinking about working as a hospital intern and you have an opportunity to experience the different specialties that pharmacy has to offer, do it! I promise you, the hands-on experience you get while interning will have a bigger impact on you than your textbook.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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