Tips to Build Pharmacist-Nurse Relationships

APRIL 19, 2015
Health-system pharmacists interface with many ancillary health care professionals on a daily basis.

In addition to routine follow-up with physicians regarding appropriate medication considerations for patients, they commonly interface with the laboratory and microbiology team to discuss a patient's electrolyte, hematology, or culture results. Importantly, health-system pharmacists interact with pharmacy technicians all day long to assure timely, accurate, and efficient acquisition, preparation, and distribution of medications to every corner of the hospital.
But, above all, nurses are health-system pharmacists' team members in patient care.
Unlike the outpatient setting, where the pharmacist is often a patient's final contact before heading home, the nurse is most commonly interfacing with patients in the hospital setting. While working directly with patients may be incredibly rewarding, this process may also be the pharmacist's most difficult work.
Sometime throughout the day, a nurse may call the pharmacy with a sense of urgency. Pharmacists at a central hospital pharmacy station should not take the nurse's tone personally, even though the natural instinct is to let the individual on the other end of the line know how busy we are, as well. 
Most likely, the nurse is under pressure from the physician and patient's family to follow through on a current order. The pharmacy needs to verify and process the order before the nurse can move forward. At this point, pausing for 30 seconds to politely listen to the nurse's request and then describing a timeframe for completing the order will go a long way toward developing a team-oriented relationship.
Later in the day, without failure, the pharmacist will have a pressing need to contact the nursing unit to clarify some sort of order discrepancy. Most likely, the nurse who called earlier will be the individual on the other end of the line. At this very moment, the service given to the nurse earlier in the day will be a direct reflection of the service the nurse reciprocates to the pharmacist.
The pharmacist station in a centralized hospital pharmacy can be very busy with order verification, STAT orders, checking technician work, and urgent telephone calls. Sometimes, health-system pharmacists forget that the level of intensity nurses are facing may be equally stressful.
When time permits, visit the nursing units and introduce yourself as a pharmacist to the nurses. Take time to learn their names and make a habit of visiting the nursing stations you are involved with whenever your position allows. 
The development of a collaborative teamwork approach to patient care first involves building the team. As a pharmacist, it is difficult to be a member of the team without knowing the other players.

Steve Leuck, PharmD
Steve Leuck, PharmD
Steve Leuck, PharmD, has been practicing both hospital and community pharmacy for over 30 years. He founded AudibleRx, in 2011, which provides Consumer Medication Information which is both Useful and Accessible. Content designed to meet health literacy guidelines. Format designed to "read along" with the audio presentation in a simple to use web application. More information at
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