Pharmacists are an integral part of the healthcare team. If you are considering getting a pharmacy degree it is important to have a good understanding of what a pharmacist does, where they generally work and what traits you should have.
Although specific work environments differ, most pharmacists work in hospitals, pharmacies and drug stores. A smaller number of pharmacists may work doing drug research or at a university teaching. Individual responsibilities may also vary by place of employment, but some general duties are listed below.
One of a pharmacist’s general responsibilities, which you are probably familiar with, is filling prescriptions. Most pharmacists who work in hospitals and pharmacies will verify and fill medication prescribed by a physician, but there is much more to the job.
As part of your pharmacy degree program, you’ll learn complex microbiology and chemistry. This knowledge is essential to a pharmacist. Working as a pharmacist involves doing a lot more than filing prescriptions. Pharmacists must also understand side effects of medications and interaction between drugs.
An additional aspect of the professional is providing education to patients. Pharmacists often instruct patients on how to take medication properly and which adverse reactions to watch for. Pharmacists also supervise technicians and other pharmacy staff. Maintaining proper documentation and records is also another aspect of the job.
Qualifications and Traits
In the United States, in order to become a pharmacist you will need to earn a doctor of pharmacy degree. Most pharmacy programs first require you to complete a bachelor’s degree. Although pharmacy schools may have differing requirements, it’s a good idea to take undergraduate classes in chemistry, math and microbiology. After you earn an undergraduate degree you can apply to a pharmacy school. In addition, most schools will require you to take the pharmacy college admissions test. Most doctor of pharmacy programs take three or four years to complete.
If you are trying to decide if this career is right for you, consider some of the personal traits you need to work in the field.
Organization: Pharmacists often have to work on several things at once. This may be especially true in a busy pharmacy and hospital where customers and patients are waiting. Being able to juggle several things at once and prioritize is important to success in the field.
Attention to Detail: One critical aspect of the profession is following prescriptions. Even a small error could result in the wrong medication or dose. Medication errors can result in serious health complications.
Compassion: Pharmacists will be working with patients with all types of medical conditions. Patients may be scared or confused. In some instance, patients may have many questions they need answered. A good pharmacist has to have compassion and be willing to take the time needed to help patients understand their medications.
In the United States, all 50 states require a pharmacist to be licensed. After you earn a pharmacy degree, you are eligible to sit for the licensing exam. The exam consists of two separate tests. The first test covers information on medications, side effects, dosages and other drug information. The second test involves laws in the particular state where you are getting the license.
It can be difficult to decide what type of work you are best suited for. If you are interested in the medical field and enjoy helping people, a pharmacy degree may be a good choice.
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