Changing health care world impacts pharmacist's role, responsibilities

The changing world of pharmacies is impacting the role of a pharmacist and their duties, making the job ever more challenging and diverse. Traditional community pharmacy settings still provide a home for pharmacists, but new opportunities continue to grow with hospitals and clinics.

The role has begun to evolve from filling prescriptions, verifying the correct dosage and ensuring no major drug interactions exist, to also now dispensing flu shots, as well as meningitis and shingles vaccines.

The demand for pharmacists has impacted how they are viewed in the health care industry. The American Pharmacists Association currently is lobbying for passage of federal law to recognize pharmacists as health care providers and for their knowledge, and less focus on product dispensing.

Marc L. Fleming, assistant professor, pharmaceutical health outcomes and policy, University of Houston College of Pharmacy, Texas Medical Center, is working with the Center for Pharmacy Practice Accreditation. His goal is to reflect the skills and knowledge of pharmacists.

The Center for Pharmacy Practice Accreditation (CPPA) recognizes pharmacy practices that provide an advanced level of patient care, services, quality and safety.

"My hope is that accreditation will further highlight pharmacists' knowledge and lead to revenue streams associated with this knowledge as opposed to just product dispensing. When you consider the movement from product focus to knowledge focus, pharmacy is still a great career choice. Pharmacists also are viewed by Americans as one of the most honest and ethical professions, only behind nurses," he said.

Pharmacists also provide advice on leading a healthy lifestyle, give immunizations, and conduct health and wellness screenings.
Overall, job responsibilities revolve around the best interests of the patient.

"Some pharmacists are involved with many facets of patient care such as collaborating with physicians to improve patient outcomes and medication adherence," Fleming said. "Pharmacists can play a major role to help patients understand the importance of taking their medications as well as provide refill reminders."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a pharmacist in 2012 was $116,670 per year with 14 percent growth possibility between 2012 to 2022.

State pharmacy schools are busy with students preparing for jobs.

Fleming said there are currently seven schools in Texas, with the possibility of eight.

"Coupled with more pharmacy graduates and fewer new retail positions, the job market for pharmacists is tighter than in the most recent years. More than ever, pharmacy students are seeking residency opportunities in hospital settings. I also see the number of community pharmacy (retail and independent pharmacies) residency programs increasing as well in the next few years," he said.

To become a pharmacist, you must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), a four-year professional degree and be licensed, which requires passing two exams.

In July 2012, there were 124 Doctor of Pharmacy programs fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), according to the BLS. Admissions requirements vary by program; however, all Doctor of Pharmacy programs require applicants to take postsecondary courses such as chemistry, biology and anatomy. Most programs require at least two years of undergrad, although some require a bachelor's degree. Most also require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test.