Every now and then I am reminded that a lot of people don’t know what it is that Pharmacists do. We are not all old men in white coats lurking mysteriously at the back of Pharmacies (or Chemist’s shops as some people may call them). We certainly do not just stick labels on boxes either. Grrrr.
Pharmacists in Australia spend four years at university doing an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy then one year as an intern where you work on the job but are not yet registered as a Pharmacist. In this year further study and assignments are done and exams must be passed at the end to become registered. Further study may also be undertaken. I have an Honours Degree in Osteoporosis prevention and I’m also an Accredited Consultant Pharmacist meaning I perform Home Medicine Reviews as well as working in the Pharmacy. Pharmacists must complete continuing education each year also.
When a prescription is dispensed there are many things a Pharmacist does before handing the medication to the customer. Often an assistant will process the computer side of it and ask some of the questions that need to be asked of the customer.
The Pharmacist wants to know if the customer has any allergies to medications and if this is the first time this medication has been used. If it is the first time it’s being taken the Pharmacist will provide printed information on the medication as well as discussing things such as how to take it, how long for, things to do and not do and many other pertinent points.
The Pharmacist will ensure that the dose, medication and treatment length are appropriate. Other factors will also be considered such as other medications being taken whether they are prescription or otherwise and other medical conditions.
If there is a change to regular treatment the Pharmacist will discuss this also.
The Pharmacist will also contact the customer’s Doctor if there are any issues that need to be discussed before a medication can be provided.
There is a lot that goes on from the point in time where a prescription is handed in to when it is ready to be given out and discussed with the customer. Prescription dispensing is only one part to the job of a Pharmacist.
Many people each day walk in to a Pharmacy and ask to speak with the Pharmacist. It is very rare to be able to ask to speak with a university trained professional without an appointment or cost involved.
Ten minutes as a Pharmacist
There is no such thing as a typical ten minute time span in pharmacy but I thought I’d try and give you an idea. The following is ten minutes of my day as a Pharmacist recently.
- I was asked to look at a rash on a toddler that had come up over the course of the day. Upon questioning it was related to rolling around in the grass at the park. An antihistamine was provided along with other advice to treat this allergy.
- A middle aged gentleman asked to speak with me and described symptoms that he had been suffering with recently that he had not had time to see a Doctor about. I discussed the symptoms with him along with getting a history of other medications and medical conditions suffered. I provided medication suitable for his condition and asked him to follow up with his Doctor and discuss how this had gone.
- I removed a tick for a German tourist who was horrified to discover what was attached to her stomach!
- I checked the blood pressure of an elderly lady and discussed with her what she should do based on the reading as she needed follow up with her Doctor.
- I checked prescriptions, as described above, that had been dispensed so that I could provide them to the customers waiting.
- I organised and provided medication to a customer that is given out once a week.
- I received a phone call from a Doctor discussing how a customer’s medication that we package each week was to be altered.
There are of course many, many other aspects to the role of a Pharmacist but I hope this has given some insight.