Part clinical coordinator, part air traffic controller
Career Spotlight By Lauren Lakdawala, PharmD, BCACP
Specialty pharmacy is becoming a name well known within pharmacy practice. Though I wasn’t introduced to this concept until after my residency, I have spent the past 4 years as a New Practitioner developing and practicing specialty pharmacy services. At my practice site, I work with a team of 14 pharmacists (10 are New Practitioners!). I am responsible for the fertility and high-risk pregnancy service while also being cross-trained in other specialty disease states, such as hepatitis C, inflammatory conditions, growth hormone, multiple sclerosis, transplant, and cystic fibrosis—to name a few.
Before stepping into my role, I knew very little about infertility treatment and high-risk pregnancy but was excited to develop patient care services—a 5-year professional goal.
Building a patient care service
From the start, there was a lot to learn. Fortunately, my APhA membership provided me with continuing pharmacy education (CPE) on infertility treatment. Websites from accrediting bodies and drug manufacturers were helpful, but treatment guidelines were limited to members only. After a few months of self-directed learning, I realized the most important aspect in building this service was understanding the patient perspective.
By fostering relationships with the clinics, I was able to attend education classes given by fertility nurses to all patients before starting a treatment cycle, which allowed me to learn about the patient’s medical procedure experience. The classes further supplemented my self-directed learning to help create an in-service for my co-workers, resources for dispensing, and years later, a CPE for the hospital-wide pharmacy department.
Present-day patient care service
Our specialty services team has seen increased satisfaction from patients and clinics from incorporating the pharmacist and pharmacy technician as part of the health care team. Technicians process prescriptions, investigate benefits, facilitate prior authorizations, and prepare medications for dispensing. Pharmacists clinically evaluate prescriptions, educate patients telephonically on use of injectable and oral medications, document in the patient chart, and dispense prescriptions in a timely fashion. As a Clinical Coordinator working with numerous dispensing locations and clinics, on some days I feel like an air traffic controller!
Reflections: Would I do it over?
My daily work has allowed me to fill an immediate goal of providing medication education to patients as part of the health care team. The specialty team helps to alleviate patients’ concerns by providing medications prior to need and educating on proper use, which allows the clinics to focus on the treatment plan. Understanding how to educate patients via telephone was difficult but achievable given the tools I created. I do miss face-to-face patient interaction, but am able to foster the same patient relationships compared to when I worked in the pharmacy.
I have learned the value of perseverance and patience in the past 4 years and continue to learn from patients how to improve our specialty services. Each day I feel renewed excitement to work in this practice area, and I enjoy sharing it with student pharmacists and residents. I would encourage all New Practitioners to consider working in specialty pharmacy now or at any point in their pharmacy career.