Which is the most valuable?
In their own way and dependant on the task in hand they are exactly the tool you need for the job.
If I had to open 100 tins of beans the can opener would be my best friend. Refined over many years to be perfectly honed to deal with this specific task I could sail through opening the tins and prepare a banquet for a huge crowd (well I didn't promise a gourmet banquet!)
If I had to cut out many items from pieces of paper, my can opener which previously saved the day would be cast aside for the scissors. Again a fine set of sharpened stainless steel scissors would allow me to accurately and comfortably cut out the items quickly and safely.
But then there is the Swiss army knife. Often received as a gift and for some always found close at hand, it is not designed to do any one specific function better than a specialist tool could. Instead it has been exquisitely developed, refined and honed to be the answer to a multitude of tasks. For that reason it can often be found carried by people who consider themselves ready for any eventuality.
"Where does this link back in to hospital pharmacists?" I hear a muffled cry.
Well, in areas where you have a high volume of similar tasks a specialist tool is best placed to meet this demand. It has been developed to deal with a tight grouping of functions in the same way, quickly and safely. In the case above think scissors and can opener.
However in more unpredictable, general scenarios sometimes you need to hedge your bets and have a multi purpose tool that can cope with just about anything that is asked of it.
When we were asked to consider the career structure for Irish hospital pharmacists we recognised that being a generalist could be a speciality in itself. It was no more or less specialised than working in a clinical niche for the majority of the day.
The further training and development needed to cover several specialist clinical areas to a high level required training and development akin to that needed to work in depth in any single specialist medical area. Every department has a pharmacist that fits this bill. They can be dispatched to any far flung corner of a hospital and be relied upon. This is often down to skills developed through experience and blended training applied over time to a range of clinical areas.
It is for this reason that when job description reviews were conducted with the HSE in 2017 as part of the implementation meetings, discussions were tabled over the the meaning of "specialist" and "specialism" in Irish Hospital Pharmacy in order to acknowledge the diverse ways that hospital pharmacists have and continue to develop high level input to patient care.