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August 2015 – Quite a different challenge appears

When I planned my day shadowing pharmacy staff at Birmingham Children’s Hospital I was worried about my lack of knowledge about hospital pharmacy systems and my clinical skills regarding paediatric medication.   What I don’t anticipate is my emotional reactions, especially as a Mum confronted by these seriously sick children and their families.

The day is a real roller coaster of an experience.   I meet a very mature teenager who knows all his medication and when his next injections are due, a couple with a baby of only a few months old that has never spent a day outside hospital.   I see siblings play around the beds of very very sick children including those awaiting transplants.   I can see those that have had transplants in isolation rooms.

I suppose the children on the wards in Blantyre will be surrounded by family too but I know the ratio of nurses is going to be drastically lower.

Sick babies in Malawi
Sick babies in Malawi


I watch as the pharmacists check doses against the latest blood results and clinicians challenged (politely) to ensure safe prescribing.   I see a technician check that an awkward dose can be manipulated as easily as possible for parents to manage.  Another technician delivers some medication to take home in time for the translator to explain it to the parents.   She has also matched the drug administration chart with colours and shapes with stickers placed on the medicines to help the family make sure the right medicine is given at the right time.

And that is apart from the standard dispensing, checking of doses and interactions, drug information, calculating chemotherapy requirements and adjusting bespoke nutrition given by intravenous routes.

The phone and the queries never stop!   I wonder how this will compare to hospital pharmacy in Malawi.

To be honest I don’t think I would have coped with going on the Intensive Care Unit.    I think you need to be a very special person to work in Paediatrics; certainly everyone I meet is amazing.

I’m very relieved that my husband Dave is coming with me.