The Role of the Pharmacist

The Role of the Pharmacist 


Through your treatment journey with cancer or illness, you will get to know your pharmacist as you fill and carry out your treatment plans. This leads some people to wonder what the role of the pharmacist is in the grand scheme of medical care. Here we will highlight the different jobs, duties and tasks carried out by your pharmacist daily.  

First, pharmacists are medication experts that work with your health care team to advise on proper dosage, availability, side effects and monitoring the parameters for your effective healthcare. Pharmacists work to ensure the treatments and therapies your doctors prescribe are safe to be taken together and will not affect you in any other ways. Pharmacists are often first to know of medicinal recalls or issues with dietary and allergen information with prescription medications. In some settings, pharmacists can work independently or within a collaborative practice helping to manage patient’s drug therapy.  

Second, pharmacists can work in any environment where medications are used or prescribed, or any medicinal therapy is used as part of patient care. Most often you can find pharmacists in community-based settings and in health care systems. Pharmacists are also legally charged to manage and protect medical and medicinal information on products and for patients.  

Third, in order to be a practicing pharmacist, they must complete at least six years of college, graduate from an accredited college of pharmacy, and successfully completed and maintain their state board licensure. After graduation, many pharmacists complete and additional one to two years of residency training to acquire specialty knowledge and skills for today’s advanced team and environment.  

Here are some of the details about job descriptions and duties the pharmacists carry out daily. 

  • Filling prescriptions. This is the main job of the pharmacist and most widely recognized job done. This involves the organization of medications prescribed by doctors for their patients. The process of filling a prescription is not always simple as believed. The pharmacist begins by double checking the medication that the doctor has recommended for the patient and makes sure it will not interact with the patient’s allergy list, or other medications. In some cases, there might be drug interactions or potentially dangerous side effects, which then triggers the pharmacist to call the doctor to confirm the choice of drug or make changes to the prescription or dosage for the patient. Finally, the pharmacist then dispenses the medication with the relevant drug information for the patient to ensure that the patient is taking their medication responsibly. To ensure this is done correctly, the pharmacist will ensure that the premises, the drug quality and supply chain standards are up to the mark. They are also in charge of following all state and federal regulations in pharmacy work.  
  • Preparing medications. Not all medications within the pharmacy walls are ready-made to go out to patients. Some medications will need to be prepared by the pharmacist for patient use.  

Some medications require simple preparation techniques, like adding water to form a solution. Certain creams and ointments may take more focus and measuring to ensure the mixture is combined well with the correct dosage within. Those pharmacists that work in a compounding pharmacy may need to prepare many more complex medications. This could include the formulation of some medications from scratch, including filling capsules and making formulated medications that are not commercially available. 

  • Providing advice to medical professionals and patients. Because each medication is different and available in many different forms, the pharmacist is responsible for advising each and every patient on how to take their medication, along with any side effects they can expect. This can include the time of day the medication should be taken, with or without food at meals, if you should avoid eating certain foods within a time frame of taking the medication, and the best way for the patient to take the prescription.  
  • Additionally, this can include advice about the way the drug might interact with the patient, and how it has reacted and worked in others. The pharmacist may need to take into account the patient’s body weight, gender, age, and other concurrent medications or health conditions. 
  • Other health services. The pharmacist is one health professional that sees patients the most often, with each medication refill and when they order new prescriptions. This is why your pharmacist will ask you how you are doing with your medications and check in with you periodically to see how your treatment seems to be going. This can be helpful for your doctors, too, as catching any medication-related issue before they become a problem is key. Pharmacists can also provide advise and information about non-prescription medicinal issues as well.  
  • Many pharmacies now offer in-house clinic services like vaccines and allergy shots.  
  • Some pharmacies can help you to select the correct Medicare or insurance plan to match the prescription load the patient carries.  
  • Certain pharmacies also offers help for patients with addiction to tobacco, drugs, or alcohol.  
  • Rotating work locations. Aside from the community pharmacist, which has been described in detail here, there are also other types of pharmacists like those that work in the hospital setting, consulting firm or pharmaceutical industry pharmacists, research and industrial pharmacists who work to create new medications, and regulatory pharmacists, who work to help develop and control drug standards and laws all around the world.  

So, the next time you are picking up or dropping off your prescription to be filled for your medical condition, understand that the process is a multi-stepped one that your pharmacist takes the most pride in! Thank them and remember to always be patient!  


Resources Used: 

Reclaiming Intimacy 

Pharmacy Regulation 

IOWA School of Pharmacology 

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