Sea of Change: Coast Guard Pharmacy

The Coast Guard has undergone numerous changes since the attacks of September 11, 2001, most notably moving from the Department of Transportation to its new home at the Department of Homeland Security. Change within the Coast Guard has become an everyday occurrence as our mission dictates flexible maneuvering to meet the challenges of day-to-day operations. As one of the many operating divisions within the Coast Guard system, the Pharmacy Program also is experiencing a sea of change.

The Coast Guard’s Pharmacy Program operates under Rear Adm. Mark Tedesco, director of Health, Safety and Work-Life. The Coast Guard’s Pharmacy Program is small, compared with the operations of our sister services, serving approximately 43,000 active duty Coast Guard members and 8,000 reservists. U.S. Public Health Service officers are assigned to 15 Coast Guard pharmacy billets. These multi-disciplined individuals coordinate pharmacy activities in more than 150 shore-based ambulatory clinics and ashore/afloat sickbays, spanning from Puerto Rico to Alaska. Thirteen of the pharmacy billets are located in the field, and two are involved with program management.

The majority of Coast Guard pharmacy officers came to the Coast Guard with three to five years of pharmacist experience with the desire to use their practical experience and to take on new opportunities and challenges. Coast Guard pharmacy officer positions are unique, as they work directly with patients and medical and dental clinic personnel, while balancing considerable administrative responsibilities.

The restructuring of Coast Guard pharmacy operations began two years ago when the Coast Guard realigned operations under its modernization efforts. Pharmacy officers assumed pivotal positions as Regional Pharmacy Executives (RPEs), coordinating and standardizing operations for clinic pharmacies within their assigned group practices.

Opportunities for Coast Guard pharmacists continue to evolve. Following in the footsteps of the other services, the days of “lick, stick and pour” will become only a small part of our daily activities. Counseling the patient has been a mainstay for our pharmacists, providing an avenue of information channels and an opportunity to engage one-on-one with the patient. The Coast Guard Pharmacy Program will continue to move forward with incorporation of the emerging care model called “Patient Centered Medical Home” in which pharmacists will have a key role.

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