Pharmacist follows rare and personal career path
Patricia New's decision to become a pharmacist with a specialty in nutritional support was part professional development, part personal quest. Her career path was shaped by her battle with anorexia nervosa when she was 13.
"One of the reasons this field interested me was that I had an eating disorder when I was a teenager," New says. "Having a better understanding about nutrition was very important to me."
New won her battle with anorexia and today works as a clinical pharmacist at Community Hospital. And she definitely has a better understanding of nutrition; she is one of only 381 certified pharmaceutical nutrition specialists in the world.
The specialty focuses on patients who are fed intravenously or by feeding tubes. Careful monitoring by a clinical pharmacist is required to ensure that the patients are getting proper nutrients in their liquid-only diets. The pharmacist looks at electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, calcium, and other additives needed to sustain health.
Though there are more than 230,000 registered pharmacists practicing in the U.S. today, and hundreds of thousands more around the world, only a handful in that global family have received certification in nutritional support from the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties.
Certification from the pharmaceutical board was introduced in 1988. It is one of only five certified pharmaceutical specialties offered by the board.
The certification process requires study of the latest practices and methods, followed by a rigorous exam. Certificate holders attend conferences and exchange information about the specialty, all of which helps bring the latest techniques in the field to patients.
New, who grew up in Oregon, received her degree in pharmacy in 1984 from University of the Pacific in Stockton. After completing two pharmacy residency training programs, she went to work as a clinical pharmacist in home healthcare on the Monterey Peninsula.
She focused on working with patients in need of specialized nutritional support. Some were unable to eat due to medical conditions such as strokes or cancer, and some were unable to eat enough or absorb adequate calories from the foods they ate. The majority received their nutrition through a tube in the nose or stomach or through an intravenous line.
A little more than a year ago, she brought her knowledge of nutritional pharmacy to Community Hospital, joining the staff as a clinical pharmacist and continuing to focus on nutritional support.
New is one of
"The majority of my career has focused on nutritional support," New says. "One of the things that was always on my to-do list was to see if I could pass the specialist exam."
New quietly began working toward her certificate during her off time. She kept such a low profile during her study that even her manager was surprised when New revealed that she had passed the test in January 2007.
"I didn't even know she was studying for it," says Mariann Novarina, Community Hospital's director of Pharmacy Services. "But even without that, she has been helping the other pharmacists with her expertise."
New has been helping with the pharmacy's review of its protocols for providing nutritional support and taking part in weekly nutritional support rounds.
"With Tricia's experience and interest in nutrition, we now have a pharmacist member participating in nutritional support rounds," Novarina says.
New is also working with a multidisciplinary team on a plan to add neonatal and pediatric nutritional support at Community Hospital. Those cases require special formulations and methods. Currently, those patients may be transferred to a facility like Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University. The hope is that we will be able to care for them close to home.
To Novarina, New's certificate should continue to pay dividends to the hospital and its patients as she learns of and implements advances in nutritional support.
"We are proud to offer this level of care right here in our community," Novarina says.