Recently, a student’s lament on not being able to secure a place in the pharmacy course in a public university went viral overnight. While we sincerely sympathize with his frustration, we also hope to dispel the misunderstandings some may have towards the Pharmacy course and also the Pharmacy profession. Contrary to common belief, the course itself is not easy. We would not like to make any comparisons to other courses as it would be unfair and baseless in addition to going beyond the scope of this article.
In this article we would like to share the many facets of the Pharmacy profession apart from the narrow “dispensing medications only” job description. Moreover, dispensing medicine is also not a walk in the park as most may think. What we present here is just a snippet for the many roles that a pharmacist can play and certainly is not exhaustive.
Here are some examples
Hospital-based pharmacists play many roles in the hospital from dispensing medications, to ward rounds and even compounding injections for patients. Moreover, they have to be on-call or work shifts to provide round-the-clock dispensing services and therapeutic drug monitoring services.
This is the pharmacist that does dispensing of medications most of the time.
These are pharmacists who take care of medications for patients who are currently staying in the ward.
Clinical pharmacists provide direct patient care in wards.
Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM) Pharmacist
TDM pharmacists would run the patient’s blood sample through specialised machines to determine the concentration of medication in the blood.
Cytotoxic Drug Reconstitution (CDR) Pharmacist
Cytotoxic drugs are mostly anti-cancer medications and can be very harmful to humans.
Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) Pharmacist
In patients who are unable to take food via the oral route for any reason, clinical pharmacists may recommend or doctors may order for TPN.
Drug Information Pharmacist
Who does a doctor or a nurse call when they have a question on medications?
Medications Therapeutics Adherence Clinic (MTAC) Pharmacist
MTAC are clinics run by pharmacists to ensure medication compliance and to provide extra counselling.
Store pharmacists have shed most of their clinical roles and went on to assume a more administrative role.
These pharmacist, unlike those in the academia, are focused on clinical research instead.
Community pharmacists are the pharmacists we see manning pharmacies outside of hospital settings.
Academia and research
Pharmacists with postgraduate degrees may enter into the world of academia to train future pharmacists and to conduct cutting edge research in medical/pharmaceutical sciences.
Pharmacists are employed by pharmaceutical companies to deal with regulatory matters pertaining to the registration and quality control of medicines, medical devices and cosmetics in compliance with both national and international regulations.
National health and drug policy as well as enforcement.
Pharmacists attached to pharmaceutical affairs under government agencies are involved in formulating health and drug policies including their enforcement.
The authors of this article have tried to keep this article as brief as possible, but the hats that pharmacists wear are just too many. This barely offers a glimpse into who pharmacists are and what roles they play other than just “dispensing medications”.
Image credit: https://www.sig-is.org/images/branding2_six_pharmacists.jpg
Gan Pou Wee
M.Pharm, MBBS, BCPS, R.Ph
M.Pharm, Ph.D, R.Ph