Pharmacists are highly educated and trained allied health professionals who specialize in preparing and dispensing prescription medications and offering their expertise in the safe use of these drugs. However, the traditional roles of a pharmacist have evolved to include new responsibilities that involve all aspects of pharmaceutical care and the safe, rational, and cost-effective use of prescription drugs. It takes several years and a doctorate to become a pharmacist, but it’s a lucrative career choice that can be very satisfying.
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What does a pharmacist do?
The duties of a pharmacist can vary based on their work setting and the state in which they practice. In community pharmacy settings, their primary responsibilities include dispensing medications to customers, providing prescription consultations, and answering any questions customers might have. In a clinical environment, pharmacists may assess, initiate, monitor, and modify patients’ medications to ensure safety and effectiveness while collaborating with other healthcare providers. Depending on their specific position and state of practice, other duties a pharmacist may have include:
Verifying physicians’ instructions on proper medication amounts to prescribe to patients
Selecting proper dosage forms, doses, and dosing schedules
Checking for any possible contraindications of new prescriptions with existing ones
Ensuring patients understand potential side effects
Planning and implementing effective patient-specific drug therapy
Monitoring and evaluating drug therapies to identify and solve problems
Conducting health and wellness screenings
Administering flu shots and other vaccinations to adults and sometimes children
Advising the public on over-the-counter medications
Educating patients on healthy lifestyle choices
Advising patients on the best supplies or equipment to treat specific health problems
Supervising pharmacist interns and pharmacy technicians
Completing insurance forms to ensure patients get medications they need
Ensuring pharmacy data is recorded/maintained in compliance with all regulatory procedures
Where do pharmacists work?
Pharmacists often work in community pharmacies, which can be independently owned, stand-alone pharmacies, a small department within a supermarket, or part of a large drugstore chain. They may also work as a clinical pharmacist within a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare settings. Consultant pharmacists may work in private practice, healthcare facilities, and advising insurance providers and pharmaceutical sales companies on prescription medications and improving pharmaceutical services.
A pharmacist who specializes in a specific area may work in a setting matching this specialty, such as a veterinary pharmacist working in an animal hospital or an oncology pharmacist working at a cancer center. There are also nontraditional employment opportunities for pharmacists, such as jobs in pharmaceutical sales, marketing, and research and development. Some pharmacists work in the education field as college professors teaching pharmacy students.
What skills make a good pharmacist?
A good pharmacist has expert knowledge of all types of prescription and over-the-counter medications, including potential side effects and interactions between different drugs, dosing recommendations, etc. to prevent negative outcomes from medication use. They have excellent communication skills, both oral and written, to provide clear, concise information to patients about their medications and to effectively communicate with pharmacy technicians, interns, physicians, nurses, pharmaceutical reps, insurance companies, and other pharmaceutical-related providers. Successful pharmacists excel at accuracy, attention to detail, time management, setting priorities, and making critical decisions in what’s often a fast-paced environment to ensure each prescription is filled correctly. Above-average computer, managerial, and analytical skills are also highly desirable traits of good pharmacists.
How to become a Travel Pharmacist
Becoming a pharmacist typically takes six to eight years. Prospective pharmacists must earn a Doctor of Pharmacy, or PharmD, degree by completing a doctoral program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Program applicants usually need a four-year bachelor’s degree in health sciences to enter, but a few programs allow applicants who’ve only completed two years of undergraduate study. Most programs require applicants to pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
All states require pharmacists to be licensed and requirements vary by state, so it’s essential to check with the state board of pharmacy to confirm these stipulations. Requirements will include completing a set number of practice or intern hours, which varies by state, and passing two exams.
All states require PharmD graduates to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). This is a pharmacy skills and knowledge test with eligibility to sit for the exam determined by the state of practice.
Prospective pharmacists must also pass a state-specific pharmacy laws test. Currently, 44 states use the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) to fulfill this requirement. The remaining states have their own pharmacy laws exam. Some states have additional exams unique to their jurisdictions. Pharmacists must pass the MPJE or state-mandated pharmacy laws exam for each state in which they want to be licensed to practice.
New and established pharmacists can enhance their status as top job candidates by earning a variety of professional certifications. The certifications a pharmacist should get hinges on the types of job settings and positions they’ll likely pursue, but they can hold multiple certifications.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) currently offers 20 professional certification programs, including pain management, pediatrics, diabetes management, pharmacokinetics, emergency medicine, and informatics, among others.
The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) currently offers 14 specialty certifications, including specialties in nuclear, geriatric, oncology, psychiatric, cardiology, infectious disease, and ambulatory care pharmacy, among others.
Pharmacists who administer vaccinations must be certified in most states. States typically use the American Pharmacists Association’s Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery program as a qualification for certification. APhA also offers other certificate training programs
Pharmacist job posters also may have their own requirements or preferences. They all typically require experience, which can range from two years to five-plus. Some positions require Basic Life Support certification and a few require Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support. Some travel pharmacist employers prefer candidates with previous travel experience.