Official Recognition of Emergency Medicine Pharmacists: 40 Years in the Making


For the first time since the practice of emergency medicine pharmacy was established, the services and value of pharmacists in the emergency department are officially being recognized.

Note: A version of this piece appeared on the author's blog.

A historic event for emergency medicine (EM) pharmacists occurred at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) held during the last week of October in Chicago.

For the first time, ACEP is recognizing and supporting the presence and various roles EM pharmacists play as members of the multidisciplinary team in the emergency department (ED). This was passed in the form of a resolution (number 44, for those of you who are curious) at the council meeting held at the conference.

Based on some of the reactions that unfolded when the news broke on social media, this was a “duh!” moment for many folks. For a service that has been around for roughly 40 years, this is quite a feat and has actually made some folks wonder why ACEP never officially recognized EM pharmacists up until this moment.

If you speak wtih any provider who has a dedicated EM pharmacist, he or she will speak very highly of the value of the EM pharmacist(s) within their department. But, to have an official non-pharmacy body recognize us as valued clinicians in the ED—and our own EM physician colleagues, at that–is pretty amazing, to say the least.

A group of individuals served as part of a subcommittee for this initiative from the Section Advisory Group on Emergency Care of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (on Twitter at @ASHP_EMPharm), and they were instrumental in drafting, finalizing, and presenting the resolution. We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all of their efforts in putting this together over the past year.

You may be wondering, “What are the implications of the passage of this resolution?” There are many, to say the least, but I think it is too early to tell how the events will unfold. More than anything, this is a resolution for support of pharmacy services in the ED, but there are several possibilities.

Over the past several years, we have witnessed a significant increase in the presence and expansion of pharmacy services across EDs in various regions of the United States, and we can only expect this trend to continue. In addition, the number of EM pharmacy residencies, where pharmacists complete post-graduate, hands-on training in the discipline, has exploded over the past several years, with the current number of programs across EDs in the United States at nearly 30 (and counting). Growth in research collaborations and scholarly activities will also undoubtedly develop as a result of the passage of this resolution.

Although this resolution passed, the work has not ended; if anything, it has only just begun. Now, more than ever, justification of our services in the ED will be paramount, which I envision will get down to the nuts and bolts of defining who we are and what we do. However, I think it is equally important to ask ourselves how we can become even more innovative in the services that we provide and the roles for which we wear many different hats, beyond those that we already perform on a day-to-day basis.

Just as our practices have evolved for the past 40 years, our current roles as EM pharmacists may look very different over the same time frame down the road, perhaps even sooner than expected. Because we are a relatively large and creative group of individuals, and given the energetic nature of the environment in which we work, I truly believe that we have what it takes to accomplish answering the call.

We have already unlocked and witnessed the best of possibilities in the practice of EM pharmacy, but we should continue to do so with the keys to the future that we hold.

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