Pharmacy provides exceptional patient care

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
With a high operation tempo base like Nellis AFB, the satellite pharmacy here is working hard to provide exceptional patient care to the active duty, Reserve, guard, civilian and retiree population.

With construction currently underway at the main outpatient pharmacy at the Mike O'Callaghan Federal Medical Center, most of the operations have moved to the satellite pharmacy.

"This past Monday our satellite pharmacy filled 3,500 prescriptions. The volume of prescriptions ebbs and flows throughout the various seasons with travelers and various illnesses, but essentially we have probably doubled the volume of people coming through the door," said Capt. Joshua Hall, chief of the 99th Medical Support Squadron satellite pharmacy.

The 99th Medical Group pharmacy is staffed by 18 pharmacists, 50 technicians and approximately 30 volunteers.

"Twenty personnel staff the inpatient pharmacy, which is a 24-hour operation.  Nine of our outpatient personnel are still at the main pharmacy checking in patients from the clinics," said Lt. Col. Krissa Crawford, 99th MDSS satellite pharmacy flight commander. "The remainder is all at the satellite, including all of the volunteers who collectively put in about 240 hours per week."

The pharmacy begins the day by filling refills that were called in overnight and as the day continues patients trickle in one by one to pick up their prescriptions.

"The daily operations of the pharmacy are a whirlwind. The staff is literally jogging around to provide patient care. The mix of active duty, contractor, civilians and volunteer staff make everything possible," Crawford stated. "Our staff is top notch and their attention to detail and patient care is unparalleled."

Working alongside the pharmacy staff is the robotics dispensing system, also known as "Robby". The robotic system allows for one pharmacy technician to execute the work of three.

"We use our robotics to fill prescription refills for some of our most commonly used medications.  Some medications will not fit in the robot and must be filled manually," said Hall. 

Refills begin at "Robby" and then they are placed on a conveyor belt to the manual fill stations. A pharmacy staff member will fill medications such as inhalers or creams. Once this step is complete, the conveyor belt will continue to move to a checking station to verify each prescription.

"If there are any problems with the prescription such as the dosage is incorrect, the handwriting is not legible, or there is an interaction, we will contact the prescriber to make the corrections," said Hall. "Once the label is correct, we fill the prescription with the help of our automation system and barcode technology. Patient safety is the pharmacy's number one goal. Every single prescription goes through the various precautionary steps at a minimum and some require more.  Even for a simple tube of ointment, pharmacy staff will conduct all necessary checks. "

Air Force pharmacies also greatly differ from their civilian counterparts, Crawford said.

"Compared to civilian pharmacies, we are much different. Our volume is much greater, we do not charge any co-pay, nor do we deal with any insurance issues," Crawford said. "Our technician standards are higher (as are our expectations) and our military technicians are very highly trained."

In many ways the pharmacy is very similar to other Air Force pharmacies; each pharmacy has their own mission and challenges, however, they all follow the same regulatory and AFI requirements and similar patient populations. 

"The 99th MDG pharmacy is ranked as the sixth largest pharmacy in the Air Force. The pharmacy boasts three board certified pharmacists; two Airmen who are high-level linguists, and seven technicians who have been in the Air Force for less than one year, "said Hall. "We also support three pharmacy schools by hosting and training students."

The satellite pharmacy is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To have a prescription filled visit the satellite pharmacy located in building 340 or call 702-652-5359.