Counting pills, verifying personal information, and asking if patients have any questions are just a few of the tasks Airmen at the Ramstein pharmacy take on each day.
With a staff of three pharmacists and seven technicians, the Ramstein pharmacy cares for more than 47,000 patients and eleven clinics in the area, filling more than 110,000 prescriptions annually. Therefore, wait times may be longer than expected, but for a reason.
“Ramstein is unique because we are not just supporting a MAJCOM; we are supporting a conglomeration of a lot of different units,” said Maj. Christine Tolbert, 86th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy flight commander. “We always have deployers coming through, people who are leaving for deployments or permanent change of stations, and patients at the aeromedical staging facility. It is not a set, steady pace we have; there are missions taking place all over the world we are supporting.”
To ensure patients are receiving accurate medication and doses, the pharmacy follows a nine-step ‘Rights of Safe Medication Use’ policy, which verifies the following information: right patient, right drug, right time, right dose, right route, right duration, right quantity, right indication and right for the patient.
Once a patient leaves their primary health care provider, they go to the pharmacy to get their medicine. After checking in at the window, their prescriptions go through an extensive assembly line and are checked several times by multiple people. Controlled prescriptions go through even more steps than non-controlled medications.
“Our non-controlled prescriptions are filled either manually or we have an automated machine that fills our most frequently used medications,” said Master Sgt. Shari Owoh, 86th MDSS pharmacy flight chief. “Most patients think all the medications come out of a machine, but most of them are filled manually. If it is a controlled substance, then we have to access a vault, count the pills manually, recount again, and then the pharmacist counts them for a third time.
“The medication then goes back to the window and the Airman calls the patient back up to dispense,” Owoh continued. “Doing so, they then counsel the patient on the medication.”
Every prescription goes through this process, touching no less than four pharmacy personnel. Due to the lengthy process of each prescription and understanding of everyone’s valuable time, the pharmacy has worked toward a process improvement.
“We wanted to make the process faster and serve our patients better, but not at the expense of patient safety,” Tolbert said. “Patient safety is our number one priority. We got rid of our old queuing system and are back to pulling paper tickets. We also instituted a patient script drop box, which allows patients to drop in their refill requests and off-base prescriptions. They are ready for pick-up the following day after 2 p.m.”
In addition to the new drop boxes, refills can also be picked up at the Script Center located inside the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center. Technicians from the pharmacy fill it daily, ensuring patients’ needs are handled.
Inside the pharmacy walls, personnel are moving around rapidly, but fluidly. The team has learned how one another moves about fulfilling their duties, and they work well together, one technician said.
“We have an awesome crew,” Owoh said. “No matter how hard we work or how hard we get bombarded, our attitudes are always helpful; we do everything with a smile.”
The team at the pharmacy recently came together to come up with a fittting mission statement for their unit.
The pharmacy strives to provide superior patient care for warriors and families by encompassing core values, professional knowledge and teamwork to enable theatre and global operations … with a smile!
“Every day I learn something new, and every day I am humbled,” Tolbert said. “I get to work around amazing, intelligent, hard-working people. People in the pharmacy work incredibly hard, and it is an honor to work here.”
While it may take more than a couple of minutes to fill a requested prescription, patients should know the personnel in the pharmacy are working very diligently and doing everything they can to ensure each patient receives the best care and accurate medication.