Posted by: Brendan Fraser20 NOV 2012
This is funny to admit at this stage of my pre-registration year, but I do not fully understand the role of a pharmacist. Those of you who read my blogs may be thinking – “why?” Surely after four years at university and four months of pre-registration training I should understand the role of the pharmacist. But the truth is I don’t, and here’s why.
Throughout my pharmacy degree I gathered experience in four sectors that pharmacists can work in which included; academia, hospital, community and the industrial sector. My first experience was in academia and I could understand the role of a pharmacist here. Being a registered pharmacist in this sector is not necessary. This is because an academic career does not necessarily involve the practise of pharmacy. However specific areas e.g. pharmacy law and ethics and pharmaceutics, may require registration and a more clinical focus. In general, teaching is a part of the pharmacy code of ethics under section 7 ‘Take Responsibility For Your Working Practices’ with 7.3 stating ‘Contribute to the development, education and training of colleagues and students, and share your knowledge, skills and expertise’. The academic sector for a pharmacist’s career therefore makes sense and the day-to-day role can be described as that similar to any other academic.
The next area in which I worked was community. Primarily the pharmacist’s role here is to ensure the essential services stated by the PSNC are being delivered. From my understanding, this is what defines the pharmacist’s role in community. The location of community pharmacies will dictate what additionally services are available and the pharmacists may or may not have to adapt to these roles e.g. flu vaccination, smoking cessation. The role of a community pharmacist can be very clear cut. In my opinion, the role could be expanded to increase collaboration with General Practitioners and Commissioning Groups and I feel there are areas where community pharmacists can have more of an impact. As a pre-registration student, I look at the future of community pharmacy with great interest regarding the potential roles of pharmacists.
During my third year I obtained some hospital experience. The main motivation in my application for the hospital pre-registration was to discover the role of a clinical pharmacist. I remember how surprised I was when I compared the clinical check of community pharmacist to that of a hospital pharmacist - a subject a fellow blogger has been discussing.
In hospital the role of the pharmacist varies greatly and it is here where I get lost. There are clinical pharmacists who spend their time at a ward based level working within multi-disciplinary team. There are medicines information pharmacists who spend time researching and finding answers to medicine related queries. There are pharmacists who work in the production unit managing and ensuring products are of satisfactory quality. There are pharmacists who work in clinical trials, mental health, risk management, teaching, information technology, service managers… The list seems endless. It is here where I struggle to define the role of a hospital pharmacist because with the variety of the jobs comes different skill sets and therefore a hospital pharmacist becomes indefinable. Clinically (which is the area I’m interested in), hospital pharmacy has expanded greatly developing roles for prescribers and consultant pharmacists. But these roles are few and far between depending on funding, need, and all sort of other complications/variables. With the observations and knowledge I have so far, I feel the role of hospital pharmacist has no set definition and there can be future innovative roles for pharmacists in this sector.
A conference and placement in industry was my final experience before my pre-registration year. Shadowing pharmacists within industry was interesting however there is no set definition of an industrial pharmacist. This is because apart from being a Qualified Person, being a pharmacist in industry has, in my opinion, no benefits to that of any other scientists. Pharmacy does however cover the whole of a medicines journey (from medicinal chemistry right up to issues surrounding patient compliance) and pharmacists in industry will have that awareness that could be used to their advantage.
To conclude, I have discussed my opinions and thoughts regarding the role of a pharmacist in various sectors. I have not mentioned the role of a pharmacist in the primary care setting or within media or politics. However, hopefully I have demonstrated that, in my opinion, the role of the pharmacist cannot be defined because it varies massively.
General Pharmaceutical Council (2012). Standards of conduct, ethics and performance. p16-17.