A pharmacist is a healthcare professional, who deals with all aspects related to medication. Pharmacists are experts in medicines and their use, they advise other healthcare professionals, as well as patients, about dosages, how to use specific types of medication and when to prescribe or take different types of medication.
Where do pharmacists work?
Pharmacists work in a variety of different settings, including hospitals, community health centres, high street and supermarket chemists, as well as for large pharmaceutical companies. In the NHS, pharmacists may take on a variety of different roles, including primary care, community and hospital pharmacy.
Primary care pharmacy
Primary care pharmacy is a relatively new sector, which has emerged over the course of the last ten years. The role of the pharmacist may include the management of medication, working in GPs’ surgeries, advising patients and professionals and getting involved with clinical governance. Pharmacists may be employed by health boards and primary care trusts to deal with any issues relating to the provision, management and prescription of medication. The role of the pharmacist can be varied in this setting and their input is very valuable to health bosses, who may have no experience in pharmaceuticals. Some pharmacists work solely in GP practices; their role involves the management of medication, prescribing medication, running specific health clinics and providing educational sessions and workshops for prescribers in the local area.
As the name suggests, community pharmacists work in the community. You may see them in high street pharmacies, independent and rural chemists and supermarket pharmacies. Pharmacists help to ensure that prescription drugs are given to the right patient and to advise patients about the drug they are taking. They may talk to patients about the dosage and effects of a drug, especially if there are known side-effects, and how to take the drug; for example, many drugs should be taken shortly before or after eating.
Pharmacists can also advise patients who come in with specific symptoms or those who are generally feeling under the weather. They can recommend specific medications for minor ailments and encourage patients with more severe symptoms to visit their doctor.
Community pharmacists also play an important role in promoting good health in the community. They may advise people about giving up smoking, practising safe sex and eating a healthy and balanced diet, for example. Community pharmacists may also take on roles that are associated with business, such as accounting, banking and marketing.
Hospital pharmacists are responsible for the management, distribution, purchase, quality testing and supply of all medicines used in the hospital. Pharmacists work very closely with other health professionals and advise on dosage, how to take the medication, drug interactions (some drugs should not be taken with other drugs, for example) and side-effects.
Pharmacists work alongside patients and are responsible for advising individual patients with a range of health conditions. Pharmacists must advise patients and professionals based on the patient’s medical history, their current medication and their lifestyle. They must also take other factors into consideration; for example, if a woman is pregnant there are some medications which are unsuitable.