The Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists has designated this week as National Pharmacy Awareness Week and we’re thanking our 3-person team in SJHCG’s Pharmacy Services who, with the support of a pharmacist who works off-site, provide 24-hour support, 7 days a week to the patients in the rehabilitation and complex continuing care programs. Our pharmacy team ensures patients have the medication they need, when they need it.

St. Joseph's pharmacy, including the medication dispensing system in the nursing units

St. Joseph’s Pharmacy Services team use state-of-the-art technology to ensure the medications patients need are stocked and readily available.

Their secret is great teamwork, processes that promote patient safety and state-of-the-art technology.

“Patients at St. Joseph’s can require more than 500 medications every day,” explains Matt Smith, Manager of Complex Continuing Care and Pharmacy. “Our patients have complex care needs and prescriptions are always changing. This pharmacy team makes sure medication dosages are correct and the medication system is stocked correctly so that, when frontline nurses need to access medication for patients, it’s ready.”

SJHCG’s Pharmacy team has a paper free process that tracks all medication inventory and supply delivery through barcodes. Medications are packaged in-house in individual packages and each medication is assigned a unique barcode that appears on all orders for the medication, the packaging and the corresponding storage slot. The system updates inventories automatically as medications are dispensed to the hospital units. The pharmacy team is alerted immediately to any error in storing the medication through a triple-check system that involves scanning the medication order, the barcode on the medication package and the slot in the medication storage unit to make sure the correct medication is being stored in the right location.

The Pharmacy Services team is so effective, they have become a model for the Ontario College of Pharmacists and provide tours for other hospitals in the province that want to reduce medication errors and waste.

In the units, the nursing team accesses medications for patients through the state-of-the-art Omnicell automated dispensing unit. This sophisticated computerized system uses biometric scans and the medication barcodes, along with alarms and lights to reduce the risk of medication errors.