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An infusion pharmacist prepares medication for infusion via intravenous or subcutaneous routes. This method of drug delivery can be more rapid than other options, and may be required for some medications because they are not well tolerated when delivered orally. Special skills are required to prepare safe and appropriate infusions for activities like cancer therapy, intravenous antibiotics, total parenteral nutrition (TPN), or pain management. A pharmacy degree and license is required to work in this field.
When an infusion pharmacist arrives at work, prescriptions may be waiting for attention. The pharmacist can review them, check for medication conflicts, and prepare infusion solutions for patients. This process includes clearly marking bags of solutions with information about their contents and directions for use. In the case of bags containing dangerous medications, the pharmacy may require additional warning labels as a measure to protect patients.
Those preparing to prescribe an infusion may ask to meet with an infusion pharmacist if there are special concerns. These can include discussions about what to use as a base for the infusion solution. For example, a standard saline solution is common, but the patient might need a different mixture, or the care provider could ask about adding vitamins and electrolytes along with the medication. Infusion pharmacists can also consult nutritionists and other medical professionals as they prepare medications to make sure they are appropriate.
Solutions used in a hospital environment can be given to nurses or doctors for administration to patients. If a patient is taking a solution for home infusion, the infusion pharmacist may need to provide some instructions. The patient should receive instructions, but may benefit from a refresher with reminders about the markings on the infusion solution and how to use it safely. The pharmacist can also check to make sure the patient has alcohol swabs, needles, and other equipment that might be necessary for safety.
Sometimes the infusion pharmacist may personally walk a medication to a suite for a patient, to address concerns about highly toxic or dangerous medications. The pharmacist can make sure the right patient is being treated, and can help set up the infusion. Other pharmacists may provide infusions directly in the pharmacy in patient suites for convenience and comfort. This can be helpful for patients preparing for home infusion, as they can start under supervision to make sure they understand how to deliver the medication before they’re alone at home.