Pharmacists dispense drugs to patients, following prescriptions from physicians and other healthcare providers. They instruct patients on the correct dosage for medications and how to take them.
Pharmacists advise both physicians and patients on possible drug interactions and side effects. Their practice may additionally offer diet and health advice, information on over-the-counter medications, as well as patient screenings and immunisations.
Duties and responsibilities
- Review prescriptions to check for accuracy and suitability for patient
- Determine necessary ingredients, then calculate, measure, compound and dispense medications
- Instruct patient on correct dosage for medications, how to take them, and any storage instructions
- Advise both patients and physicians about potential drug interactions and side effects
- Assist patients with general health questions, over-the-counter medications and health supplies
- Complete insurance forms and help patients choose the best, most affordable medicine options
- Order and maintain pharmaceutical stock and medical supplies
- Develop procedures for organisation, efficiency and safety in storing, labelling and dispensing drugs
- Supervise pharmacy technicians and interns
- Administer flu shots and other required vaccines, and conduct health screenings
- Consult with physicians and healthcare providers about prescribing trends and patient usage issues
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Nights and weekends possible
Pharmacists usually work in pharmacies contained in drug, grocery and general merchandise stores. Hospital, clinic, government and military locations are also possible.
Most pharmacists work full time, but hours can vary from typical business hours to rotating shifts that include evening and weekend hours. Some pharmacies are open 24 hours.
With patients making inquiries by phone, internet, in person and at drive-up windows, pharmacies can get very hectic. You will spend most of your work shift on your feet and will have some exposure to patients with contagious ailments.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from a postgraduate programme accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Check with your preferred school for admission requirements. You will need to complete two to four years of undergraduate study in specific science and math coursework.
The PharmD programme will take three to four years, including an internship in a work setting. Some schools offer a six–year combined undergrad and postgrad pharmacy degree.
All pharmacists must be licensed to practise in their state. This requires passing the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) as well as a state-specific test on pharmacy law. Additional certification is required to administer immunisations.
Years of experience and positive reviews from patients will help you qualify for pharmacist jobs with better hours and pay. Completing a two-year residency programme in addition to your PharmD allows you to transition to a role in a hospital or clinic with more direct patient care.
Some pharmacists go on to manage a chain pharmacy or own their own location. An additional degree in business administration or public health can be useful for this career path.