Today's pharmacist is the most accessible member of the health care team. The pharmacist is often the first health professional a consumer will talk to about health questions, and the pharmacist is likely to be the last health care team member to consult with patients about their drug treatment. Today's pharmacist not only dispenses prescriptions but also provides information and drug-related primary care.
The pharmacist is a specialist in the science of drugs. The educational background of a pharmacist includes knowledge of the chemical structure of drugs. Because the pharmacist often works with a product as well as a service, the pharmacist is educated in business and administration techniques in order to effectively manage a pharmacy operation.
Pharmacy demands that one be dependable and show good judgment. The responsibility the pharmacist has for the health and well-being of people emphasizes the need for accurate decision making and high ethical standards. Above all, since pharmacy involves working with both patients and other health care professionals, a pharmacist must relate well to others.
The majority of pharmacists practice in a community setting. Community pharmacies range in size from the very small prescription shop to the large full-line drug store and can be owned by individuals or large corporations. Community pharmacy requires extensive use of business and management skills. In addition to the dispensing of both prescription and nonprescription drugs, the community pharmacist also has the opportunity to provide advise and information on health matters to the public and provide consultation service to health care facilities.
As a member of the health care team, the hospital pharmacist is directly involved with patient care. The hospital pharmacist works with doctors and nurses to design a program of drug treatment most appropriate to each patient. In addition, the pharmacist is responsible for the drug distribution system of the hospital. Specialized areas, such as nuclear pharmacy, drug and poison information and intravenous therapy, have become a part of hospital pharmacy practice. The hospital pharmacist may also provide training to other staff members in the proper use of medications.
In addition to these two major areas, pharmacists work in industry, education, and all levels of government. Many serve as consultants to nursing homes, hospitals, and home health care agencies. Individuals with pharmacy degrees may pursue other health careers by entering medical, dental, or other professional schools. With their health and science education, pharmacists may specialize in the areas of technical writing, science reporting, and editing of professional magazines or journals. Pharmacists with legal training may become experts in pharmaceutical law.
With these multiple opportunities in an evolving health care environment, Pharmacy is a very rewarding profession.