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Not Your Average Pharmacy Job

Members Practice in All Kinds of Environments

Jun 01, 2010

Left to right: James A. Jorgenson, M.S., Vernie R. Coleman Daniels, M.S., Laurel Kinosian, FSVHP

PRACTICING PHARMACY IN A HOSPITAL OR HEALTH SYSTEM is a challenging and exciting field with abundant career opportunities. But have you ever wondered what it would be like to pursue a nontraditional career path? Although most ASHP members practice in hospitals and health systems, some clinical pharmacists work in unexpected places.

“There are so many things pharmacists have the skill sets to do,” said Vernie R. Coleman Daniels, M.S., a research pharmacist employed by acontractor who does pharmaceutical research at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “I never would have imagined when I was in pharmacy school that I’d be doing what I’m doing today,” Daniels said, adding that opportunities for pharmacists exist in a broad range of alternative environments.

Out of This World
For Daniels, working with NASA is a path of discovery. “Medications and drug delivery systems work differently in a weightless environment,” she said. “The information in the literature about standard forms and doses may or may not be applicable. The setting is harsh.”

Zero gravity is the most obvious difference between earth and space, Daniels said, but temperature, humidity, radiation, vibration, and storage logistics are also variables that can influence a medication’s performance in space.

“We have to become creative when considering dosage forms and dosage delivery systems, which may not work the same way in the space environment as they do on earth,” Daniels said. “The blessing is that our patient population is healthy, requiring little or no pharmacotherapeutic intervention. However, should the need arise, our job is to ensure that safe and effective medication is available.”

Going for Gold
James A. Jorgenson, M.S., executive director of pharmacy at Clarian Health Methodist Hospital’s Department of Pharmacy, Indianapolis, also had the opportunity to work with patients who, though quite healthy, came with their own set of challenges: He provided pharmacy services on-site at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. At the time, he was employed at the University of Utah, whose campus served as the Olympic Village. Having played college ice hockey and being a fan of numerous sports, Jorgenson jumped at the opportunity.

From the get-go, Jorgenson and his team had to tap into their own resources of ingenuity. “We thought there would be data from previous Olympics, but there wasn’t,” he said. “We had to design the forms and create the list of banned substances from scratch. “We had to work with about 20 different pharmacopeias in addition to learning which drugs might get an athlete into trouble.”

They also worked with Pfizer Inc. to create a drug information center for the athletes, their families, and visitors from all over the world—a potential patient population of nearly 250,000 people. “Fortunately, the Olympic Committee provided interpreters,” Jorgenson said.

Although no one can be sure when the U.S. will host the Olympics next, there are opportunities to get involved in pharmacy for athletes, Jorgenson said. “There are banned substances in every major sports league, which creates an opportunity for education,” he said. “In fact, I don’t know of any league that has a good education program, so that’s something to explore.”

All Creatures Great and Small
Interpreters may have helped Jorgenson at the Olympics, but they wouldn’t be of much assistance to Laurel Kinosian, FSVHP. As a clinical instructor of pharmacy with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and president of the Society of Veterinary Hospital Pharmacists, Kinosian works with patients that bark, yip, growl, meow, squawk, hiss, or simply look at her.

Veterinary pharmacists have many of the same clinical and administrative responsibilities as their counterparts in hospital pharmacy. Compounded medications must comply with requirements of state and provincial boards of pharmacy, federal regulations, and legislative statutes, much like those created for human patients.

However, animals present a plethora of unique challenges. For one thing, many veterinarians prescribe human medications for use in animals. Because of this cross-species use, veterinary pharmacists must be research-oriented and curious, said Kinosian.

“How do I get this drug into this animal? Is there any dosing information? Is there anything in the literature about this drug in this species?” she said. “You can’t make assumptions from one species to another, and the answers aren’t necessarily written in a book somewhere.”

To that end, veterinary pharmacists often turn to one another. “Veterinary pharmacy is a smaller world than human pharmacy,” Kinosian said. “That’s one of the best parts about it for me. We all get to know each other, and everyone helps.”

Getting Started
If you are interested in exploring all the options available for pharmacists who practice within hospitals and health systems, take a look at ASHP’s CareerPharm website or the information and resources on ASHP’s website.

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