This post is written by Stacy Prelewicz
I had the opportunity to spend the last three days learning about the operational side of the pharmacy department at UCI. I spent the majority of my day learning hands on in the mixing room participating in their entire process of assuring correct chemotherapy schedules, medication labeling, medication preparation, and medication dispensing. I also learned about their drug procurement process. They keep a record of the use of their medications and utilize this information to order medications monthly. This sounds very straightforward but what makes it difficult is that these medications will take 4 months to arrive. It is very difficult to predict what exactly will be needed 4 months in advance on a limited budget and continual increase in the number of patients at UCI.
Since my last visit here the number of patients has doubled in size. Luckily, a new beautiful ward building has been built, but only the pediatric ward is furnished thus far. Once all of the adult wards are furnished it can accommodate about 100 patients but they normally have about 200 inpatients on campus at a time. In addition, their outpatient clinics see anywhere from 80-100 pediatric and 180-200 adult patients a day! This is more than the average seen at most cancer centers in the US and they do it all with only 2 pharmacists and 2 full time technicians. Since UCI is a referral center patients travel from very far to be treated and they never turn anyone away. It is common to see patients in hallways and corridors in order to provide somewhere for all the patients to stay while being treated due to the beds always being full.
In May, the main part of UCI will also be moving into a new building called The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Institute Research Center. This research center will include a pharmacy office, outpatient pharmacy, and inpatient pharmacy so the pharmacy department was able to have a lot of input into the design of the new building. The center will mostly serve patients who have cancer secondary to infectious diseases. Everyone here is very excited for the official opening ceremony since the Secretary of State from the US plans to come as a speaker.