Many students who are considering entering the world of pharmacy may wonder where pharmacists work and what they actually do. They may hear hear from many others who briefly say it is a respectable field with great pay. This post describes two of the many more interesting and common opportunities available for future pharmacists. Pharmacy careers have evolved to becoming more diverse and specialized in many aspects. Traditionally, pharmacists were more than likely found in a neighborhood drugstore carefully preparing medications into individual patient containers or using deft compounding techniques and mixtures and dispensing the products to their intended customers. These pharmacists are commonly known as community pharmacists. Nowadays, new pharmacy students will be exposed to many other career opportunities that may interest them in the pharmacy world. They may find out more about these other areas of work from their pharmacy curriculum, talking to their peers or instructors, and from internships or rotations.
Other than the traditional community pharmacy vocation, pharmacists are also found in institutional settings such as hospitals. Whether it be hospitals, long term nursing homes, or specialized institutional settings such as rehabilitation or behavioral health centers, pharmacists in these settings may dispense and prepare medications for acute care or chronic care needs. The inventory of medications dispensed may differ from a community pharmacy setting in that medications given in the acute care setting may include different routes of administration that need to be handled by a trained and licensed professional such as a doctor, physician assistant, nurse, anesthetist, etc. Some of these include intravenous and epidural routes of administration. Pharmacists in these settings dispense, advise, recommend, counsel, and monitor proper medication handling and usage. Pharmacists may also consult and work with a team of healthcare professionals as the in-house drug information expert; these ‘consultant’ pharmacists may be more commonly known as clinical pharmacists. Clinical pharmacists specialize in a particular branch of clinical care (eg pediatrics, geriatrics, critical care). Clinical pharmacists may have received advanced training as a post-doctoral resident, or have years of practice experience. They may choose to validate their knowledge and adding titles to their name by earning advanced certifications in their specialities such as nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support, ambulatory care, pharmacotherapy, oncology, and psychiatry from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties or in specialities (Diabetes, Geriatrics, Anticoagulation) offered from other certification organizations. You could check with each of the certification board on the requirements to obtain these certifications.
Management is another area of interest to experienced pharmacists. Whether it be in community or hospital settings, pharmacists who are interested in administration and the overall mission of their department within their organization may choose to pursue a career in administration. Although not required, pharmacists may pursue another advanced degree such as a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) or another related field (MPH) to further develop their skills. Many pharmacy schools offer dual-degree pharmacy programs where a student can earn two degrees in one program: Doctor of Pharmacy and another degree such as an MBA. Pharmacy administrators, managers or directors as they are more commonly known, handle the overall operations of a pharmacy. This could include more or less managing employees (pharmacists, technicians), reviewing their performances and schedules, managing department budget, handling inventory and product recall issues, complying with every pertinent state and federal pharmacy law as to the proper practice of pharmacy, attending meetings, and handling complaints. Managers usually have a higher pay in salary and a typical Monday thru Friday schedule. However, they may have to work on-call after hours and weekends, as well as cover for their employees in the event of staff shortages.