Clinical Pharmacists Play Integral Role in Medical Missions: A Case Study in Peru


The case study of the medical mission in Peru serves as a poignant example of the indispensable role clinical pharmacists play in health care teams, especially in challenging and resource-limited environments.

Medical missions, while providing essential health care services to underserved populations, necessitate not only surgical expertise but also comprehensive pharmaceutical support. In one mission to Peru, there were about 200 surgical procedures performed including cheloid removal, cleft palate surgery and cleft lip surgery, among others. Some procedures were quick, whereas some took several hours. The patients’ ages ranged from 3 to 75 years.

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Image credit: Jeffery Edwards |

The Role of Clinical Pharmacists in the Medical Mission
Clinical pharmacists played a pivotal role in medication preparation during the mission, customizing treatments and dosages based on patient characteristics. Their expertise in dosage calculations and compounding techniques ensured precise and tailored medication administration, allowing surgeons and anesthesiologists to focus on their responsibilities. The meticulous approach to the compounding of the different pharmaceutical preparations (such as intravenous antibiotics, antinausea medications, pre-operation and post-operation medications) sped up the process, prevented underdosing or overdosing while maximizing therapeutic efficacy and budget efficiency.

Clinical pharmacists also prepared sterile medications on a disinfected glass surface, strictly adhering to personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines. Immediate preparation ensured maximum efficacy and stability, eliminating the risk of deterioration or contamination during storage. Pain medications such as hydromorphone, rocuronium for general anesthesia, and antibiotics such as cefazolin and ondansetron were prepared for every patient.

The pharmacists actively developed protocols for medication preparation based on weight and age categories, ensuring standardized and optimal medication administration throughout patient care stages. Protocols addressed pre-surgery, post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), and post-discharge home care.

During the medical mission, clinical pharmacists were responsible for daily stock solutions, ensuring an adequate supply of medications required for the diverse range of surgical procedures conducted during the mission. Their meticulous inventory management and collaboration with pharmaceutical suppliers guaranteed the availability of essential drugs, preventing disruptions in patient care. This proactive approach reflected the adaptability and resourcefulness of clinical pharmacists in resource-limited settings.

Patient Consultations and Education
In addition to their role in medication preparation, clinical pharmacists conducted patient consultations, providing crucial information on medication regimens, potential adverse effects, and postoperative care. Patient education sessions facilitated better adherence to prescribed medications and promoted an understanding of the importance of continued treatment post-discharge. The personalized attention given by clinical pharmacists contributed to improved patient outcomes and overall satisfaction with the health care services provided during the mission.

Collaboration within the Interdisciplinary Team
The success of the medical mission in Peru was significantly enhanced by the seamless collaboration between clinical pharmacists and other health care professionals. Regular communication and interdisciplinary rounds ensured a holistic approach to patient care. Clinical pharmacists actively participated in discussions with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nursing staff, contributing their expertise to address medication-related concerns and optimize therapeutic outcomes.

Challenges and Solutions
Despite the positive impact of clinical pharmacists, challenges were of course encountered during the mission. Limited resources, language barriers, and unfamiliar regulatory landscapes posed difficulties. However, the adaptability and problem-solving skills of the clinical pharmacists were evident as they found innovative solutions to overcome these challenges. Collaborating with local health care professionals and leveraging technology for language translation facilitated effective communication and streamlined pharmacy operations.

The Importance of Pharmacists as Integral Members of Health Care Teams
Pharmacists are increasingly recognized as indispensable members of health care teams, contributing significantly to patient care across various settings. In the context of medical missions, their multifaceted role extends beyond medication preparation. Clinical pharmacists serve as crucial liaisons between patients, physicians, and other health care professionals, bridging gaps in understanding and promoting comprehensive, patient-centered care.

The expertise of pharmacists in pharmacology, therapeutics, and medication management positions them uniquely to contribute to the optimization of treatment plans. Their involvement in medication reconciliation, dosage adjustments, and identification of potential drug interactions enhances patient safety and overall health care outcomes. In the case of medical missions, where resources may be limited, the adaptability and knowledge of pharmacists becomes even more crucial.

One of the key contributions of clinical pharmacists is their ability to develop and implement protocols for medication administration. This ensures standardized and evidence-based practices, promoting consistency in care delivery. In the context of the medical mission in Peru, the development of protocols by the clinical pharmacists played a pivotal role in streamlining medication processes and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the diverse patient population.

Patient consultations and education represent another facet of the pharmacist's role that cannot be understated. Beyond the preparation of medications, clinical pharmacists actively engage with patients, providing valuable information on prescribed medications, potential adverse effects, and the importance of adherence. This personalized approach not only enhances patient understanding but also fosters a sense of trust and collaboration between health care providers and those seeking care.

Collaboration within the interdisciplinary team is a hallmark of successful health care delivery, and clinical pharmacists are integral to this collaboration. Their participation in rounds, discussions with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nursing staff ensures that medication-related concerns are addressed promptly, contributing to the overall efficiency of patient care. Contributions such as providing best alternative to a medication when inventory is low or a medication has run out, management of the medication inventory, and creating discharge protocols to address pain management, are just a few among the many contributions pharmacists made to the team. The ability of clinical pharmacists to communicate effectively with diverse health care professionals enhances the synergy within the team, leading to better patient outcomes.

In conclusion, the case study of the medical mission in Peru serves as a poignant example of the indispensable role clinical pharmacists play in health care teams, especially in challenging and resource-limited environments. Their contributions extend beyond the traditional boundaries of pharmacy practice, encompassing medication preparation, protocol development, patient education, and seamless collaboration with other health care professionals. As the landscape of global health care continues to evolve, recognizing and harnessing the full potential of clinical pharmacists is essential for achieving comprehensive and sustainable healthcare outcomes.

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