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During the throes of a COVID-19 pandemic that has caused hundreds of thousands of people to suffer, escalating death tolls, worldwide economic collapse, and chaotic uncertainty, pharmacists across the nation, but particularly within New York State, have been asked to go above and beyond what is outlined by New York State legislation. Although this encompasses the typical pharmacist duties across various clinical environments, most recently pharmacists were conveyed the ability to test patients for COVID-19 as a way to rapidly expand access to testing. While we appreciate this great responsibility and fully welcome these challenges, we demand that the common mischaracterization of pharmacists as non-providers be fully reversed and ask that pharmacists are granted full providers status from the governing bodies of New York State and by Congress. You can help by signing the petition AT THIS LINK that requests New York State Doctors of Pharmacy are granted provider status for their continued determination in this pandemic.

Pursuing a career path in pharmacy requires four years of rigorous undergraduate work, similar to physicians, prior to applying to Doctorate of Pharmacy programs which are an additional four years (some pharmacy schools have expedited six year programs, similar to some medical schools). After graduating with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (PharmD), many pharmacists pursue postgraduate training in the form of a 1 to 2-year general practice residency, which can then be followed by a 1-year specialty residency and/or fellowship, and may culminate into an option for board certification by the Board of Regents. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the qualifications and training, which was outlines on in Nobody Knows five years ago. Also see #rebrandpharmacy.

After residency completion, Doctors of Pharmacy are able to work in a plethora of clinical positions embracing critical care settings (including emergency departments, and intensive care units, and critical care while treating those with COVID-19), palliative care settings (including acute care palliative services as well as hospice treating those with COVID-19), infectious disease settings (treating those with COVID-19), ambulatory care settings (including treating primary care, endocrinology, rheumatology, psychiatry, and pain patients while their normal providers are aiding hospital systems overrun with COVID-19), amongst many others. Within these specialty areas, Doctors of Pharmacy are educated and trained to evaluate and assess patients, prescribe medications, make treatment recommendations and decisions, and create patient-centered monitoring plans, that has not only vastly improved healthcare outcomes compared to other healthcare professionals, but is associated with lowering overall healthcare costs and the economic burden on these systems. In many instances, these highly trained Doctors of Pharmacy are more qualified in the area of medication therapeutics than the majority of clinicians prescribing the medications.

Besides these specialty areas, Doctors of Pharmacy in the community and within inpatient settings are the ones who are ensuring correct types and dosing of all medications prescribed by other healthcare clinicians, minimizing drug-drug and drug-disease interactions, and checking that the most optimal medication is being used for the specific indication for which medications can be safely used.  These Doctors of Pharmacy are also putting their lives on the line every single day to provide therapeutic proficiency for our patients. Without this “non-medical” work of all Doctors of Pharmacy (who by the way are also preparing IV antibiotics, total parenteral nutrition for ill patients tha are unable to eat, IV pain medications and the like), the healthcare system would be fraught with medication errors, and mortality by those currently in positions prescribing the medications that Doctors of Pharmacy are expertly trained in and monitoring daily. Certainly we understand that there should be a TEAM approach to medicine, but it would be nice if the government recognized us as an integral part of that clinical team.

While we sincerely appreciate unwavered support and recognition that pharmacists are essential workers in the fight of COVID-19, we remain resolute in pointing out the significance and power of being denied provider status holds. Pharmacists are the aficionados of all medications and clinical therapeutics, are absolutely considered medical professionals, and should absolutely be considered providers. We request your support in leveraging our expertise to expand the clinical roles of pharmacists during and after the COVID-19 pandemic to benefit patients and the healthcare system, and in the future to support opioid risk mitigation within and outside of New York State. We encourage any and all health care clinicians from any discipline, AND patients, AND public to help us achieve these goals by signing the petition AT THIS LINK that requests New York State Doctors of Pharmacy are granted provider status for their continued determination in this pandemic.

And of course, as always, comments are welcome on this site!

GUEST AUTHOR:  Dr. Jeffrey Bettinger is a Pain Management Pharmacist Specialist with Saratoga Hospital Medical Group in Saratoga, NY. He earned his PharmD from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in 2017 with a concentration in nephrology. Following his doctoral training, he completed a PGY1 general practice residency at the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, NY. Immediately following his general practice residency, he trained with Drs. Jeff Fudin and Erica Wegrzyn to complete a PGY2 Pain and Palliative Care residency at the same institution. He continues to have a strong academic background publishing in peer-reviewed journals, presenting at regional and national meetings, and teaching various classes at different colleges of pharmacy.


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