Characterizing Critical Care Pharmacy Services Across the United States

Crit Care Explor. 2021 Jan 8;3(1):e0323. doi: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000323. eCollection 2021 Jan.


Involvement of clinical pharmacists in the ICU attenuates costs, avoids adverse drug events, and reduces morbidity and mortality. This survey assessed services and activities of ICU pharmacists.

Design: A 27-question, pretested survey.

Setting: 1,220 U.S. institutions.

Subjects: Critical care pharmacists.

Interventions: Electronic questionnaire of pharmacy services and activities across clinical practice, education, scholarship, and administration.

Measurements and main results: A total of 401 (response rate of 35.4%) surveys representing 493 ICUs were completed. Median daily ICU census was 12 (interquartile range, 6-20) beds with 1 (interquartile range, 1-1.5) pharmacist full-time equivalent per ICU. Direct clinical ICU pharmacy services were available in 70.8% of ICUs. Pharmacists attended rounds 5 days (interquartile range, 4-5 d) per week with a median patient-to-pharmacist ratio of 17 (interquartile range, 12-26). The typical workweek consisted of 50% (interquartile range, 40-60%) direct ICU patient care, 10% (interquartile range, 8-16%) teaching, 8% (interquartile range, 5-18%) order processing, 5% (interquartile range, 0-20%) direct non-ICU patient care, 5% (interquartile range, 2-10%) administration, 5% (interquartile range, 0-10%) scholarship, and 0% (interquartile range, 0-5%) drug distribution. Common clinical activities as a percentage of the workweek were reviewing drug histories (28.5%); assessing adverse events (27.6%); and evaluating (26.1%), monitoring (23.8%), and managing (21.4%) drug therapies. Services were less likely to occur overnight or on weekends. Telemedicine was rarely employed. Dependent prescriptive authority (per protocol or via practice agreements) was available to 51.1% of pharmacists and independent prescriptive authority was provided by 13.4% of pharmacists. Educational services most frequently provided were inservices (97.6%) and experiential training of students or residents (89%). Education of ICU healthcare members was provided at a median of 5 times/mo (interquartile range, 3-15 times/mo). Most respondents were involved with ICU or departmental policies/guidelines (84-86.8%) and 65.7% conducted some form of scholarship.

Conclusions: ICU pharmacists have diverse and versatile responsibilities and provide several key clinical and nonclinical services. Initiatives to increase the availability of services are warranted.

Keywords: critical care; education; organization and administration; pharmacy; research; surveys and questionnaire.