Medicine can save your life- but it can also hurt you if it is not taken the right way.

During October, Rapides Regional Medical Center will celebrate Hospital and Health System Pharmacy Week Oct. 17-23, by sharing suggestions about what you can do – and how your hospital pharmacist can help – to make sure you receive the best and safest medications.

“Many consumers are not aware that pharmacists play a critical role in preventing medication errors, advising prescribers on the best drug choices, and working directly with patients to ensure they understand how to use their medications safely and effectively,” said Mary Halbert, R.Ph., Rapides Regional Medical Center’s pharmacy director. “Pharmacy Week is a great way to educate the public about how pharmacists can help them get the most benefit from their medicine.”

Pharmacists who graduate today receive seven years of college education with a focus on medication therapy.  Many pharmacists practicing in hospitals and health systems also complete post-graduate residency programs – making them experts on thousands of medications.  Hospital pharmacists advise doctors and nurses on the best medications and monitor every patient’s medication therapy and provide quality checks to detect and prevent harmful drug interactions, reactions, or mistakes.

RRMC pharmacists are available to talk to you about your medications. They can help you understand why your medicines were prescribed and what they are supposed to do. They will also let you know if your medicine causes problems like sleepiness or a dry throat. The pharmacists can also help you take your medicines safely at home. You can ask your pharmacist how to store and take your medication, what foods or activities to avoid, and what to do if you forget to take your medicine.
Here are some tips from the pharmacy department on safe medication use while you are in the hospital:

  • Bring a list of all the medicines you take, including medicines prescribed by your doctor, medicines you purchased at a drug or grocery store like pain relievers or cold medicine, vitamins, herbal and nutritional supplements.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse about any medicines you aren’t supposed to take and why.
  • When you check in to the hospital, ask how to contact the on-site pharmacist.
  • Ask the names of the medicines you are receiving while in the hospital.
  • Ask if there are any foods, drinks, other medicines, or activities that you should stay away from, such as drinking grapefruit juice while taking medications to control cholesterol.
  • Ask about anything that the medicine might cause, like sleepiness, an upset stomach, or a dry throat. 
  • Keep any written information you are given about the medicine.
  • Ask your physician, nurse or pharmacist questions regarding newly prescribed medications.
  • Watch out for unexpected changes in your medicines, such as a change in color or shape.
  • Ask a friend or relative to help you follow these suggestions if you need help.

“Hospital and health-system pharmacists have been able to take on enhanced patient-care roles because of a number of factors, including the deployment of highly trained, certified technicians and new technologies like robotics that dispense medications,” Halbert said. “As technology evolves—such as the addition of machine-readable codes to medication labels—patients will have greater opportunities to have a pharmacist involved in their care.”