Featured, Professional Advice / Opinions:

Pharmacists Are Healthcare Providers!

By: Sandra Leal Pharm.D., CDE


Sandra Leal, PharmD, CDE is the Director of Clinical Pharmacy at El Rio Health Center in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Leal is the first pharmacist in Arizona to receive prescriptive authority under collaborative practice. She is currently the Co-Chair of HRSA’s Patient Safety and Clinical Pharmacy Services Collaborative, a national effort to improve health outcomes and patient safety through clinical pharmacy services.

      Dr. Sandra Leal is also responsible for the petition on change.org to recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers under federal law. It was our pleasure to invite Dr. Leal to contribute to the Rho Chi Post regarding her inspiration for creating this petition and speak to us about why she considers this an important matter for our profession. I highly recommend that my fellow students, professionals, faculty members, pharmacists and readers read about the petition and sign it by clicking the link here. On behalf of the entire Rho Chi Post editorial team and St. John’s University College of Pharmacy, I would like to thank Dr. Leal for contributing to our newsletter.

Topic Question: When you started pharmacy school did you think you were going to be a health care provider? Please explain your answer and the reasoning behind your petition on change.org

I did and I was shocked to find out that this wasn’t the case. In fact, I had not even realized the gravity of this lack of provider status recognition until I started working at my current position.

I had worked in a hospital, a retail setting, a compounding pharmacy and even in a lab doing research.  My passion was really working in a patient care setting where I could practice to my full potential. My current position was funded through a grant from the Office of Pharmacy Affairs. The purpose was to integrate clinical pharmacy services into a treatment team to improve the use of medications in a patient care setting.

Initially, the position was only funded for two years but after being able to show improved health outcomes for the patients I was working with, I was able to retain my position. The challenge is this…lack of provider status makes it difficult to add other clinical pharmacists to our program because there is not a direct source of reimbursement from payers even though the evidence shows improve outcomes!

This might not seem like a big deal but the reality is that we are educated to be medication use experts. After working in different environments, I realized that I could make the biggest impact working directly with patients and providers to optimize the medication regimen before, during and after the prescription was written. Some pharmacists might worry about the extra work or liability, but the reality is that you are liable no matter what. The real impact that you can make to reduce liability is by getting involved and being proactive as oppose to being reactive.

Because of this, I started a petition on Change.org to recognize pharmacists as health care providers to create awareness about this issue. With over 16,500 signatures, it has resulted in an energizing dialogue that is gaining momentum. The pharmacy profession is changing…you might not realize this now, but reflect back on this petition just one or two years after you graduate and you too will understand the gravity of this issue.

Published by Rho Chi Post
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