When you think of a pharmacist, do you envision someone in a white lab
coat, methodically measuring out prescriptions behind a counter? The real
scenario is more complicated.
“A pharmacist’s job includes everything from managing and preparing
medications to interacting with nurses, doctors and patients. No two days
are alike. In a small hospital like the Camden Campus, we have an opportunity
to positively impact patients, who are the people we see in our community.
Putting a face with a name adds a layer of accountability,” says
Kevin Smiley, PharmD, manager of Southeast Georgia Health System’s
Camden Campus Pharmacy department. His team includes three full-time and two part-time
The Value of Human Oversight
Hospital pharmacists oversee all manner of medications, including those
administered intravenously. “We’re continuously involved with
patient care and adjusting medication based on kidney function. Our computer
system does a good job catching errors and potential problems, but nothing
replaces human oversight,” Dr. Smiley says. His team works with
hospital staff to ensure quality care. “Our hospital physicians
are very receptive to partnering with us. We constantly re-engage with
the patient’s health care team.”
Throughout the workday, two principles loom large in the mind of each hospital
pharmacist. First, do no harm. Second, they evaluate whether the recommended
treatment is backed by clinical evidence.
When lives are at stake, there is no margin for error. Pharmacy school
prepared Dr. Smiley and his team for the demands of the job. “It
requires a minimum of six years of school. Working in a hospital pharmacy
bridges science with clinical care. You’re more than a bench scientist;
you’re interacting with people.”
Providing Care Close to Home
One of those interactions stands out in his mind. A young woman with an
immune disorder required a five-day course of an intravenous medication.
“She was afraid she would have to drive to Jacksonville to get treatment.
We arranged for her to have it here in her community, close to her primary
care physician. We’re a small hospital, but we’re capable
of big things.”
That is fortunate, because when the coronavirus pandemic hit Camden County,
Dr. Smiley and his co-workers were called upon to do big things.
An Enormous Impact
COVID-19 struck communities throughout the world, without regard to size
or resources. The Camden Campus experienced its first coronavirus spike
last June. “It was an unusually busy summertime in South Georgia.
The ICU was full, the medical/surgical unit was full. Everyone was exhausted.
It pushed our resources hard,” Dr. Smiley recalls. Similar to other
parts of our country, health care providers noticed a spike in COVID-19
cases after each holiday. With spikes, demand for medicines such as sedation
for patients on ventilators can exceed supply. “You get one patient
off a ventilator and another one goes on,” Dr. Smiley says. His
team also dealt with constantly changing medication guidelines.
Whenever the pace slowed down, the pharmacists paused to reflect. “We
asked ourselves, ‘What did we learn? What can we do more efficiently?
Is there a better way of looking at the big picture?’”
Last June, during the first spike, the pandemic became personal when Dr.
Smiley and his son contracted COVID-19. The experience made him resolve
to improve his health. “I wished I had eaten more salads and fewer
donuts.” Like other health care providers, he expresses concern
that some people aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously. “It’s
hard to see the public discount COVID. It is real; the death rate is much
higher than the flu.”
A Path Forward
With vaccines, there is a path forward. Dr. Smiley understands vaccine
hesitancy, but as a scientist constantly evaluating evidence, he soon
discounted his doubts. “At first, I was a little skeptical, but
if we were going to see ill effects, we would have by now. I have had
Pharmacists play a powerful role in protecting our community. That has
never been more evident than with the COVID-19 vaccine. In the near future,
vaccines requiring regular freezer storage should be available. When that
happens, Dr. Smiley hopes his pharmacy will become “a gateway for
vaccine distribution”. In the meantime, he reminds us to focus on
what he and his fellow pharmacists never forget. “We are all in
Southeast Georgia Health System offers COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics in Kingsland
on Mondays and Fridays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and Brunswick on Wednesdays and
Saturdays, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. To schedule a vaccine appointment and to learn
if you meet eligibility requirements, visit