After 30 years at Metropolitan Hospital and 13 years as Pharmacy Director, Carol Ng has seen a dramatic evolution in the hospital's pharmacy operation. Ng received her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from St. John's University. She worked as an intern at Metropolitan's Pharmacy Department, was subsequently asked to join the fulltime staff, and eventually became the hospital's Director of Pharmacy. In 2007, Ms. Ng was chosen as Metropolitan Hospital's Employee of the Year.
What is the role of a hospital pharmacist?
Hospital pharmacists are responsible for reviewing and evaluating all medication orders against each patient's medical record for efficacy and safety. We oversee the systems that are designed to provide safe and efficient drug distribution and control. In addition, we monitor the effects of drug therapies and are in constant communication with physicians and nurses about the medications. All these measures help promote patient safety.
At Metropolitan, we fill between 600 and 700 outpatient prescriptions every day for people who come to our clinics. We also review 75,000 inpatient prescriptions monthly to make sure that people staying in our hospital are getting the right dose of medication at the right time and that there are no allergies or drug interactions to be concerned about.
What are some of the most dramatic changes you have seen over the years in the pharmacy department?
When I first started, the pharmacy was similar to a grocery store. The doctors and nurses told us what drugs they needed and we gave it to them. We were not considered partners in healthcare. Over the years, that has changed. As the pharmaceutical industry becomes more and more complex, our role and expertise has become a more vital aspect of patient care. We are now valued members of the care team and our colleagues look to us for advice and guidance to best serve our patients.
How have advances in technology at HHC helped the pharmacy?
The city's public hospitals were one of the early adopters of Electronic Medical Records, which let us immediately see all drug orders and check them against each patient's record for potential problems. All prescriptions are now ordered via computer, eliminating problems from handwritten prescriptions that are hard to read and a source of errors.
Metropolitan Hospital is home to one of HHC's pharmacy robots. How does a robot help you?
Our robots can fill more than 200 prescriptions every hour with precision, while pharmacists double-check each order, by comparing it to a computer image of the size, color and shape of the medication. This frees up staff time and allows us to spend more time with patients and consult with our colleagues.
What has been your experience with patients who follow a complex prescription drug regimen?
We are seeing more patients with multiple chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension, which they control through various medications. This certainly increases the chances of medication errors and could be very difficult to manage for many of our patients. In these cases, pharmacists must be even more vigilant to monitor adverse drug interactions. And increasingly, we're called on to help patients not only understand the medications and how they must be taken, but also how they can cope with side effects.
What do you do when you are not working?
I spend time with my family. My husband Raymond is a pharmacist and supervisor at Westchester Medical Center. Our son Randy is a businessman. Our daughter Alyssa just graduated from St. John's and is preparing for entrance exams for medical school. And I enjoy gardening and traveling.