Pharmacists are important component in the healthcare industry. They are experts in prescription medication and advise patients and medical practitioners on medication interactions, side effects, dosage and selection.
What do Pharmacists do?
Pharmacists are responsible for dispensing doctor prescribed medication and advising on the safe consumption of them. Their duties can range from filling prescriptions, to advising patients about safe consumption and side effects, to filling out insurance claim forms. If a pharmacist owns their own office, they can spend more time on administrative tasks, such as inventory management.
While most pharmacists work in retail stores, there are other specialties that have different work environments. Two specialists that are in this category are clinical and consultant pharmacists. Clinical pharmacists work directly with patients in hospitals of other healthcare settings. They focus on recommending medications for the patients, monitoring the patient’s health, and advising patents on when to take the medication. They do not, however, spend time dispending medication. Consultant pharmacists’ main duty is to advise insurance providers and healthcare facilities on how to increase efficiency in pharmacy services.
How to Become a Pharmacist
Becoming a pharmacist is a long journey but well worth the time. To begin the application process, potential pharmacists must have at least 2 to 3 years of undergraduate course work, some pharmacy schools require a bachelor’s degree, and take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). Once they’ve completed these requirements, they must apply and be accepted to a pharmacy school that is accredited by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education.
Pharmacists must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.) program to meet the requirements for licensure. Most schools have a four year timeline for Pharm. D. programs but some schools have a three year option. The future pharmacist will be supervised in different work environments, like hospitals or retail pharmacies, while taking classes such as medical ethics, pharmacology, and toxicology. If the pharmacist wants to specialize in one of the two areas or do research, they usually complete a one to two year residency once they’ve completed their Pharm. D.
Once they have completed their Pharm. D., prospective pharmacists must pass two state exams, one on pharmacy knowledge and skill, the other one on state-specific pharmacy laws.
As of May 2011, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational and Employment Wages states the median hourly rate for pharmacists was $53.92 and $112,160 for the annual salary. This rate does not reflect the differences in years of experience, different specialties, or full- verses part-time work.
The top five paying states are Alaska ($125,330), Maine ($125,310), California ($122,800), Vermont ($122,490), and Alabama ($119,810). The top five paying industries are Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing ($125,480); Other General Merchandise Stores ($118,630); Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services ($118,490); Offices of Physicians ($117,750); and Outpatient Care Centers ($117,510).
Important Skills to have as a Pharmacist
There are four important skills for a pharmacist to have: analytical skills, communication skills, managerial skills, and being detail oriented. Pharmacists must have good analytical skills because they have to evaluate patients and prescriptions. These evaluations are to make sure that the medicine prescribed will not adversely interact with other medicine and that it will accurately meet the needs of the customer. Communication skills are required because pharmacists interact with people every day, from doctors, to patients, to other interns and pharmacy technicians. They must be able to effectively explain the medicine to patients, especially side effects and how and when to take them.
Pharmacists should have good managerial skills because they can be required to oversee employees, especially interns and pharmacy technicians. In addition, if they own their own pharmacy, they need to have administrative skills, like managing inventory and staff schedules.
Lastly, pharmacists rely on being detail oriented. Many medicines look similar or can have different effects in different quantities. They have to ensure that the prescriptions are filled accurately because serious health risks can arise with improper medicine procedures.
With the expected 25% increase in the amount of pharmacist jobs by 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, being a pharmacist is a perfect career to help the population while having the benefits of job security.