My first week at Huashan hospital ended and I am learning a lot about what pharmacists here do and what it takes to become one. In general, the name “pharmacist” can be applied to anyone who works in a pharmacy – so it’s not as specialized as what we in the states may think of it. To be a “pharmacist,” you can either get a B.S, Masters, Ph.D, or go to a specialized high school to train in pharmacy. After working for a year, you may take a licensing exam to become a junior pharmacist – but you are still called a pharmacist. Some “pharmacists” work in the dispensary, dispensing thousands of prescription a day; others conduct research after research, because in order to get promoted (this applies to even the professors at Fudan), you need to publish a paper.
In contrast to the prevalence of Retail chains in the U.S, most patients here in China get their prescriptions from Hospitals, as they are a more trusted source, and patients can speak to the doctors when any issues arise. Licensed pharmacies are a recent development here, and although it is required to have one “pharmacist” in a pharmacy, it’s not completely known whether these pharmacists are licensed – “junior pharmacists” – I know, it’s confusing even to me – but the main point here is, the role of “pharmacists” in China is not very clearly defined and it is not at a certain tier that the U.S is in. In addition, for the most part, “clinical” pharmacists are trained clinically when they graduate and work in the hospital. They do not have any clinical background in school, and are expected to learn it when they are practicing. I am by no means, demeaning their work; the perception of what we hold of “pharmacists” in America is different from that in China – the major role here with pharmacists is centered on research and some of the clinical pharmacists/pharmacists here are doing groundbreaking research that neither you and I can even wrap our heads around. It is one of the best hospitals in the region, many patients come here for their dermatology, neurology, and nephrology departments. The people here are very nice and friendly!
Huashan is affiliated with Fudan, so the Fudan pharmacy students come here to do research, salvaging patients’ blood samples that would eventually go to waste. This comes across a lot of ethical issue, but it is not my place to complain. In addition, there is no such thing as HIPAA here. Since being at the hospital, I am experiencing major culture shock just from how different the health system is like from America, and that include things that should be minor like sanitization.
Boiling water is a requirement to drink tap water here (which I agree, it amazes me what sort of biohazards people dump into the sink); people also actually peel the skins of their fruits before eating them – that should give you a little insight into the condition here. I think this is an area of improvement that China should spend a little time in investing. Again, like the infrastructure I discussed much earlier, the quality of healthcare is also not equally distributed; you can see the obvious distinction when you enter the healthcare clinic (in the hospital) for foreigners and local “VIPs”. It’s like entering a completely different world – like a hotel, metaphorically speaking – there’s soap, tissue, filtered water, supreme cleanliness (which surprisingly, is hard to come by in public places). On a pharmacy-related note, patients are given only a 7 day supply; there is no such thing as refills – patients need to see their doctors to get a prescription for another 7 day supply and so forth.
I gave a presentation to both pharmacists and “clinical” pharmacists (Wednesday) about the pharmacy healthcare system in America, which went pretty well. Here, you have a similar hierarchy of workers like in the U.S, but slight variances. You have the residents doing the rounds, and one physician in a department overseeing them. There is a “genius” doctor that comes twice a week and goes thru every case and then select the most urgent case to work on. It looks like many things are done by hand – as they don’t have a Pyxis system. Clinical pharmacists assist, but most of the drug decisions are dictated by doctors.
I’m working on an infectious disease case which I will be presenting during the final week, peer-editing a research paper, and reviewing information for a possible “lecture.” I’m being kept busy so sorry for the delay in blogging. Tomorrow is the “postponed” conference with the pharmaceutical companies. You’ll hear about it soon.
Other fun things I’ve experienced in the past week:
-A heavenly foot massage – which is a nice treat from all the walking I’ve done – I don’t know why he’s shocked about the calluses on the foot of an American.
-I visited Handan (SP?) campus, the main one with one of the students. It was beautiful day, beautiful visit, and had a strawberry milkshake and an interesting tiramisu in a glass.
-Played chess for the first time in ages near the Bund with a Brit – I won, hehe – hopefully I’m smarter than I was 10 years ago, and can beat my brother now.
-Went to the Shanghai Museum then to a French-Chino concert
-Went to Jing’An temple
I’ll devote the next post to pictures of the hospital and my events – when I get faster internet connection