The Role of Pharmacy Techs in Natural Disasters

It is extremely important to understand your role as a Pharmacy Technician in case of a natural disaster so that you can prepare to function effectively. This includes preparing to take appropriate actions under the supervision of a Pharmacist in natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornados and wildfires. Read on to learn more about your role as a Pharmacy Technician in Natural Disasters.

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Understanding Commonly Used Medications in a Natural Disaster

It is useful to review the classes of medications commonly used during a natural disaster. These include:

  • Oral Analgesics such as codeine, hydrocodone, acetaminophen, oxycodone, ibuprofen
  • Intravenous analgesics such as IV morphine and IV Fentanyl
  • Broad Spectrum Antibiotics with low allergy potential including: PO Doxycycline and Ciprofloxacin and PO and IV Levofloxacin
  • Other antibiotics such as PO and IV Penicillin, Clindamycin, Metronidazole and IV Vancomycin
  • Antiemetics such as PO and IV Ondansetron (Zofran)
  • Antipsychotics such as PO and IV Haloperidol
  • Anxiolytics such as PO and IV Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Burn Care Agents like topical silver sulfadiazine (Silvadene) and Bacitracin
  • Ear, Nose and Throat agents for tympanic membrane perforations such as otic neomycin, polymyxin B, and hydrocortisone otic suspensions
  • Intubation medications such as IV etomidate, succinylcholine, and vecuronium
  • IV fluids such as 0.9% Sodium Chloride, Dextrose 5% in water, and Lactated Ringer’s solution
  • Ocular medications such as Proparacaine ophthalmic ointment, erythromycin ophthalmic ointment
  • Respiratory medications such as albuterol used for inhalation treatments
  • Vaccines such as Tetanus toxoid vaccine

Emergency Medications in Patient Transport Kits

Emergency medications are needed to be included in patient transport kits. These kits are usually small and easily carried by hospital and medical staff for use while evacuating patients. Some examples of drugs commonly found in transfer kits include:

  • Adenosine (anti- arrhythmic that decreases heart rate and is used to treat supraventricular tachycardia)
  • Atropine (used to treat bradycardia)
  • Epinephrine (also called adrenaline used during cardiac arrest to stimulate heat activity)
  • Lidocaine (used to treat Ventricular Tachycardia and Ventricular Fibrillation during cardiac arrest)
  • Batteries
  • Portable 2-way radios
  • Flashlights

Amounts of On-Hand Drug Inventories for Hospital Pharmacies to Maintain During a Natural Disaster

The current recommendation is for Hospital Pharmacies to maintain a 72 to 96 hour supply of critical medications to allow for the 72 hours required for the Federal government to declare an emergency.

Supplying Adequate Emergency Medications to Hospital Emergency Rooms

During a natural disaster, many more patients may flood into the Emergency Room and additional patient overflow areas.

The Hospital Pharmacy should have an emergency plan in effect to provide critical medications quickly to the Emergency Room to treat critically injured or critically ill patients who are in immediate need of care and treatment.

Hospital Pharmacy Stocking of Disaster Medications

Hospital Pharmacies should stock emergency medications as part of their normal inventory. This can help identify expired and recalled emergency medications.

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Planning for Loss of Power or Inability to Transport Emergency Medications

Pharmacy Technicians and Pharmacists should carefully review which automated delivery systems (ADC’s) have backup generators in case of a power outage.

Keys for ADC’s should be clearly labeled and readily available to be able to quickly remove emergency medications in the event of generator failure.

Preparing an Effective Emergency Pharmacy Operations Plan

In order to avoid confusion during a natural disaster, an Emergency Operations Plan for a Hospital Pharmacy should clearly outline the specific duties for Pharmacists, Pharmacy Technicians and Pharmacy staff. This pre-planning should involve:

  • Clarifying Code Blue Responses for Pharmacists, Pharmacy Technicians and Pharmacy staff
  • Clarifying Deployment of Pharmacists, Pharmacy Technicians and Pharmacy staff to clinical areas
  • Clarifying roles for Pharmacy Technicians in assisting in distribution of medications to patients
  • Clarifying the Pharmacy Technician’s role in assisting Pharmacists in the administration of emergency vaccinations

Emergency Preparedness Drills for Hospital Pharmacies

Hospital Pharmacies should conduct live training sessions and participate in hospital-wide training sessions to prepare for Natural Disasters.

Pharmacy Technicians should familiarize themselves with common industrial antidotes in case patients are inadvertently exposed to organophosphate poisoning.

Conclusion

Proper preparation is crucial when preparing for your role as a Pharmacy Technician during a Natural Disaster. Knowledge of crucial antidotes and important emergency medications can help you assist your supervising Pharmacist and your community in an attempt to recover from the shock of an unexpected Natural Disaster.

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