Poison Prevention Week: What You Need to Know

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By: Andrea Rizkallah, Editorial Intern

Poisoning can happen at any time, often from everyday household items, and frequently to children under the age of 5. Please make sure you and your loved ones save the Poison Help line phone number (1-800-222-1222) and following these tips provided by the Maryland Poison Center at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and the Poison Prevention Week Council.

Here are some helpful prevention tips to stay poison-free:

  • Install safety latches on cabinets used for medicines and cleaning products.
  • Buy products in child-resistant packaging whenever possible.
  • Teach children to always ask an adult before eating, drinking or touching anything.
  • Never borrow a friend’s medicine or take old medicines.
  • Read the labels of prescription and over-the-counter medicine carefully and always consult a doctor if you have any questions.
  • Never combine household products, as some chemical mixtures may release irritating gases.
  • Wear protective clothing when spraying pesticides and other chemicals.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near or in your home’s sleeping areas and on every level of the home.

If you’ve taken all the above precautionary measures, but someone in your home has become poisoned anyway, follow these emergency tips:

  • If the person has inhaled poison, get him/her to fresh air right away.
  • If the person has poison on the skin, take off any clothing on the affected area and rinse the skin with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If the person has poison in the eyes, rinse eyes with running water for 15 to 20 minutes.

If you believe someone has been poisoned, call the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222) immediately. If the person is not breathing, call 911.

poisonHere are some things to know when calling the Poison Help line:

  • The person’s age and weight
  • Known health conditions or problems
  • The product involved
  • When and how the product contacted the person
  • What first aid has already been given
  • Whether the person has vomited
  • Your exact location and how long it would take to get to a hospital

While these tips are helpful, they are not all inclusive. Please visit the Poison Help website, the National Poison Prevention Week website and the Maryland Poison Center for more information.

Mr. Gower Lives On

By Marc Summerfield
UMMC Director of Pharmacy Services

Unlike the abundance of physicians and nurses depicted in film, the number of pharmacists in the movies — going back as far as you like — is few.  How many pharmacists in film can you name?

Unfortunately, fewer than a handful are notable.  The first was 1933.  W.C. Fields plays the pharmacist Mr. Dilweg in The Pharmacist.  The third was 1985:  James Garner plays a small-town druggist who romances Sally Field in Murphy’s Romance.  Arguably, the most famous film-pharmacist appears in the Christmas-season favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Donna Reed as Mary Hatch Bailey and Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey.  The great character actor H.B. Warner plays the BedfordFalls druggist, Mr. Gower.   

In It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Gower, depressed over the death of his son, loses his concentration and miss-fills a prescription.  A young George Bailey realizes Mr. Gower’s mistake and purposely fails to deliver the medication; thus, saving a patient.

In 2003, UMMC became the first hospital in the world to employ robots (TUGs®) to deliver medications from the satellite pharmacies to the patient care units.   The first TUG® was used to deliver medications from the pharmacies in the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center to the Shock Trauma units.  The hospital now employs eight TUGs® to deliver medications to the Gudelsky patient care units, Weinberg patient care units, as well as in the Shock Trauma Center.

Consistent with the practice of naming inanimate objects, the pharmacy decided to name each TUG®.  The pharmacy named the first TUG® “Mr. Gower,” and he has been serving the hospital well for almost 10 years, 24/7.  In the photo above, he poses with two of his human colleagues, Marisol De León, RPh, PharmD, critical care pharmacy operations manager, and Sina Esnaashari, pharmacy application analyst.

Other TUGs® have been named “Clara” and “Florence,” as tributes to the great nurses, Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. “Edgar” is a tribute to Poe, and “Tony” is in honor of a long-time UMMC pharmacist who died shortly before this TUG® was purchased.

So, when you are watching It’s a Wonderful Life this year for the ___th time (fill in the blank) and see Mr. Gower, remember that there is a lonesome, eponymous TUG® traveling the halls and serving the patients, same as all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians do, but in a different, modern, technology-based manner.

Redwood Pharmacy Moves to a More Prominent Location

By Jeffrey Cywinski, RPh

UMMC Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Manager

You could say the new UMMC Pharmacy at Redwood has taken the community by storm. Although Hurricane Sandy threatened our neighborhood with flooding and high winds on our opening day Oct. 29, pharmacist Charles Donohue, RPh, and pharmacy technician Vernette Neely stepped up to open the pharmacy in its new location despite the hostile weather.

Our newly designed and easily accessible pharmacy has been relocated to the corner of Paca and Redwood streets — across the street from the Redwood Building. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The pharmacy includes an expanded prescription processing area and a larger variety of over-the-counter products for our patients.

The new storefront entrance also means quick access for staff and students throughout the University of Maryland Baltimore campus, and for West Side residents and others who work or shop in the neighborhood.

Pharmacy technician Shawnta Toney stocks the empty shelves with topicals at the new pharmacy.

Moving a pharmacy is a complex endeavor that requires attention to detail. Support from other departments is also crucial.

Because an extra layer of security is necessary when moving controlled substances, the Baltimore City Police, University of Maryland Campus Police, and UMMC security officers ensured safe passage for the medications from one building to the other.

The relocation involved more than 12 total hours with the assistance of about 30 staff members, which included a team of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists, assisted by Bret Elam, pharmacy business and operations manager, and Marc Summerfield, MS, director of Pharmacy Services for UMMC.

Everyone had a specific role. The technicians stocked shelves and organized the pharmacy supplies, while the pharmacists performed inventory counts on narcotics and controlled substances.

Our pharmacy department is known for using innovative technology: The Script Pro Robot counts over 40 percent of prescriptions filled and the Omnicell securely stores narcotic medications and documents any access to them. The Pharmacy IT team connected the point-of-sale cash registers and the rest of the technology. We also had the support of Agnes Ann Feemster, PharmD, assistant director of clinical pharmacy and investigational drug services, and Deborah Fay, project manager.

Thanks to our dedicated staff and partners, we were able to finish the move ahead of time.

We’re here for you. Whether you need to fill a prescription or just buy a bottle of OTC headache medicine, come visit us on the corner of Paca and Redwood streets!