PharmacistPharmacists are health professionals who distribute drugs prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners and provide information to patients about medications and their use. They advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. Pharmacists also monitor the health and progress of patients in response to drug therapy to ensure the safe and effective use of medication. Pharmacists must understand the use, clinical effects, and composition of drugs, including their chemical, biological, and physical properties. Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drugstore, or in a health care facility, such as a hospital, nursing home, mental health institution, or neighborhood health clinic.
Pharmacists in community and retail pharmacies counsel patients and answer questions about prescription drugs, including questions regarding possible side effects or interactions among various drugs. They provide information about over-the-counter drugs and make recommendations after talking with the patient. They also may give advice about the patient’s diet, exercise, or stress management or about durable medical equipment and home health care supplies. In addition, they also may complete third-party insurance forms and other paperwork. Some community pharmacists provide specialized services to help patients manage conditions such as diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation, or high blood pressure. Some community pharmacists also are trained to administer vaccinations.
Pharmacists must first complete undergraduate coursework in basic and advanced sciences. Then a student will complete a four year pharmacy program and will be awarded the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree upon graduation. A pharmacy graduate may choose to complete an optional post-graduate residency (one to three years) or enter directly into pharmacy practice. Pharmacy school graduates must complete internship requirements and pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination, or NAPLEX, and an additional state exam before they can acquire a license to practice pharmacy in that state.