Most of your interactions with a pharmacist probably come from your local pharmacy or drug store—in fact, around 60 percent of pharmacists choose to work in either an independent or chain community pharmacy. If you are considering pharmacy school, and wondering what it’s like to be behind the counter, here’s what you can expect in a typical day in the life of a pharmacist.
The most well-known task of the pharmacist is to fill prescriptions, and oversee pharmacy technicians and interns that work in the pharmacy filling patient prescriptions. In addition, since a pharmacist is an important part of a healthcare team, you may also have appointments to keep, such as meeting with a doctor (usually over the phone) to discuss any problems with a patient’s prescription. As you fill prescriptions, you will need to be mindful of many factors: have you checked for drug interactions with any other medications the patient is taking? Does the patient have financial constraints and, if so, has the administration of a generic substitute been authorized by the prescribing physician? Many people are not aware that there is a lot more to filing prescriptions than just counting pills and applying labels.
Interacting With Patients
A big part of a pharmacist’s day is spent advising patients on the use of prescription drugs. They may have questions about dosage or side-effects, and you must be familiar with the medications so you can answer these questions. The public will also want to know which over-the-counter medication will best treat their symptoms, so you need to be knowledgeable about these as well, and ready to make recommendations. Since it takes a lot of time and money to schedule an appointment with a physician or a specialist, many people look to their pharmacist to provide basic information about over-the-counter drugs and prescriptions.
Completing Office Tasks
Most pharmacies now keep computerized records of their patients and prescriptions, so part of each day is dedicated to updating and maintaining patient records. These records can help you check for potentially dangerous drug interactions, and can even help you spot prescription drug abuse. You may also need to order medications when the pharmacy runs out, and keeps in touch with patients and/or physicians when problems with prescriptions arise. If you choose to start your own community pharmacy, you will take on all the tasks of running a business in addition to your pharmacist duties.
The job of a pharmacist is active, and much time is spent on your feet, moving around, and interacting with people who rely on you for information and assistance with prescriptions and medication. In the life of a pharmacist, there is never a dull moment.