Pharmacists are the health care professionals familiar to us. Enter a drug store, and there he or she is behind the counter dispensing medicine to customers. The pharmacist is a reassuring presence as a person who makes sure that what the doctor has prescribed is being carried out accurately.

Pharmacists in Permanent Positions
Most pharmacists work in permanent positions at a hospital, clinic or retail pharmacy. Others may work in consulting, research or teaching.

Community pharmacists work in pharmacies and drug stores. They serve the public by dispensing prescriptions, answering questions about medicines, and providing other information related to the health concerns of the customers. They may provide community health services such as giving flu shots or performing health screenings. Retail pharmacists may own their own pharmacies or manage chain pharmacies, thus becoming business persons as well as pharmacists. 

Clinical pharmacists work in a hospital or other medical setting and are involved in direct patient care, recommending medications or designing a pharmaceutical care plan for particular patients in collaboration with the physician or health care team. They provide information on the dosages, interactions and side effects of medications. They instruct patients on when and how to take the medications and monitor their health and progress to make sure that they are using their medications safely and effectively. They oversee the work of pharmacy technicians for carrying out the medication orders and are responsible for the quality and supply of medical supplies and equipment.

Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists are involved in the production of drugs and may be engaged in research and development of new drugs and in designing and conducting clinical drug trials. They may participate in marketing and sales of the drugs and assist in establishing safety regulations and quality control.

Experienced pharmacists are needed in colleges and universities as faculty in the pharmacy training program.

Less known worksites are mail-order or Internet pharmacies, wholesalers, prisons, the military, and veterinary pharmacies.

The Expanding Role of the Pharmacist
Although the setting in which pharmacists work may remain the same, changes are occurring in the role the pharmacist plays in health care. Today’s pharmacists are no longer just the dispenser and distributer of medicine and health supplies. Their role in patient education and care is expanding, especially in the public health domain. Their accessibility in the community and various health settings places them in a unique position to provide preventive health information to the public, and this role is being recognized by the American Public Health Association.

Pharmacists carry a heavy responsibility on their shoulders. They must be 100 percent accurate to fill the prescriptions written by physicians for the health and safety of the patients. They need to have the pharmacological knowledge about medicines to explain the proper usage and side effects associated with various medications. They provide individualized instructions and advice to patients to achieve the best results from their medications. They are responsible for seeing that the complex federal and state regulatory requirements are complied with. They must have up to date information on new medicines being produced and be able to relay these to physicians and other medical personnel.

In meeting these requirements, pharmacists today are educated at the doctoral level to earn a Pharm.D. degree, and must pass two examinations, one on knowledge of pharmacy practice and the second on pharmacy law. This level of knowledge is where we place our trust as we use the services of the pharmacist.