Pharmacists are everywhere, from major department chains to smaller local grocery stores. A pharmacist is a licensed medical professional responsible for compounding and dispensing medications to patients. In recent years, the scope of pharmacy practice have evolved rapidly and now involves additional roles such as providing information on drugs; reviewing medication interaction, safety and efficacy; and clinical services. They are highly regarded as experts of drugs and its usage. The pharmacist job description can be split into two main sections: hospital pharmacist job description and retail/community pharmacist job description.

Hospital Pharmacist Job Description

Hospital pharmacists are in charge of all the medications dispensed in the hospital. They are experts in the use and safety of medications. They work alongside physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals. They advise doctors in determining the best possible treatment for specific diseases and ensure that the patient understands the medication and any side effects and/or drug interactions. Hospital pharmacists may go on rounds with the attending physician to specific wards; this allows them to have direct interactions with patients. During the encounter, they are able to educate patients on medication use, side effects, and restrictions on diet and over-the-counter medications.

Community Pharmacist Job Description

A community or retail pharmacist has the same qualification as a hospital pharmacist and essentially does the same thing. They take in the prescription from the patient and follow the proper procedure in assessing the appropriateness of the medication in accordance to patient’s medical history. A pharmacy technician then assists the pharmacist in preparing the correct amount of the prescribed medication. A final check of the prescription by the community pharmacist is done once more before the drug is given back to the patient. Lastly, the most important aspect of a community pharmacist is to accurately maintain confidential records of all patients.

As a community pharmacist, customer relation is utterly important. Every patient is a customer, and every customer is a source of revenue for the pharmacy. Some community pharmacist only duties include processing invoices and maintaining balance sheets, directly contacting third-party insurance companies, and dealing with unhappy customers. Individuals pursuing a career in community pharmacies should have qualities of compassion, courtesy, and excellent interpersonal skills, which are a must in any retail business.

Difference Between Hospital and Community Pharmacist

The biggest difference between hospital and community pharmacists is that community pharmacists are more involved in the the business side of pharmacy whereas hospital pharmacists are usually more highly trained in clinical drug management. Job responsibilities of a pharmacist includes:

  • Accept and dispense prescription medications
  • Provide consultation on prescription and non-prescription medications for storage, dosage, side effects, and drug interactions
  • Provide advices on selection of Over-The-Counter medications to treat common illnesses such as flu, cold sores, or headaches
  • Educate patients on proper handling of medical devices such as blood pressure monitor and glucose meters
  • Compound medications for external or internal use
  • Prepare sterile solutions following proper procedures
  • Monitor patient medication compliance and over-usage patterns
  • Supervise pharmacy staff members including pharmacy technicians, pharmacy clerks, etc.
  • Proper management of patient records and pharmacy files
  • Maintain appropriate inventory on pharmaceutical and medical supplies
  • Identify patient’s drug-related problems and effectively communicate with physicians and other healthcare practitioners
  • Work in conjunction with physicians, nurses, other pharmacists, pharmacy interns, etc.
  • Provide specialized educational programs and health promotions to help patients manage chronic health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes

How to Become a Pharmacist 

To get into the pharmacy school program, you need to complete the undergraduate pharmacy prerequisites, which take a minimum of 2 to 3 years. Studies shows that most students who are in pharmacy schools have already obtained an undergraduate degree in Science. In addition, at least 2/3 of US pharmacy schools require their students to write a test before acceptance: the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). For more information regarding the PCAT, visit American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

To become a pharmacist in the United States, the basic educational requirement that you would need is the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree, also known as the Pharm.D. This degree requires completion of 4 years at an accredited college of pharmacy. As of 2012, there are 129 pharmacy schools in US. Different pharmacy schools in US have different admission requirements and it is important that you review these requirements before you apply.

Pharmacist Training

There is no formal training for licensed pharmacists before they are hired to their positions. However, during the course of the 4-year pharmacy program, students are required to complete a certain percentage of their study in real practice. In fact, the fourth year of the curriculum consists almost entirely of advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPE). Students are required to enroll in both retail and hospital pharmacies under the direct supervision of a preceptor (a licensed practicing pharmacist) and gain practical experience through direct hands-on training.

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Pharmacist Certification

All pharmacists are required to have a license issued by the state pharmacy board before they can practice in both retail and hospital pharmacies. Before obtaining their license, the candidate must first complete the 2-4 years of necessary undergraduate pharmacy prerequisite courses, 4 years of accredited pharmacy school, and the required internship hours. Finally, they have to write and pass an test called the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), and in some states, the Multi-state Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MSPJE). Once the license is obtained, a pharmacist needs to renew their license every year by completing accredited continuing education classes and other requirements prescribed by the state of licensure.

Read About: Pharmacist Salary

Pharmacist Job Description Summary

  • Dispense and counsel medications
  • Work with pharmacy technicians
  • Minimum 2-3 years undergraduate prerequisite
  • 4 years pharmacy education program
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 14% employment growth by 2022