Careers in pharmacy can be challenging but also extremely rewarding and are in continued high demand. There is an extreme shortage in pharmacists and it has been estimated that in 2009 there will be 8,000-10,000 open positions in the United States. Obtaining a degree in pharmacy requires 4 years of pre-pharmacy study and than an additional 2 years of pharmacy school (PharmacyChoice.com). This program is long and often difficult but students graduate with a Doctor of Pharmacy and can find jobs almost anywhere they want to move. Also visit Health Care Schools if you would like information about colleges and universities that offer healthcare training and degrees.
There are many different career paths that can be taken with a degree in pharmacy depending on whether the individual likes to dispense medication or consult patients. Below are just a few of the most common pharmacy careers.
Where pharmacists work
Retail pharmacists are one of the most popular and well known of positions. These pharmacists work in settings such as Walgreens, CVS, supermarket chains or small independent pharmacies. This is a position where they communicate with physicians and clinics, dispense medications to the public, watch for harmful prescription combinations and advise customers on over the counter products.
Hospital is the next popular career choice for pharmacists and there are two different types of hospital pharmacies; in-patient and out-patient.
In-patient pharmacies are clinical positions where the pharmacist is practicing with IV bags or compounding certain doses of medication. Compounding is making a specific dosage of a prescription that is not made is mass quantity. An example of this would be to make a half dosage of a drug for a small child in a medication that only comes in a capsule form and can not simply be cut in half. In-patient facilities also work with patients who may be in the hospital for extended periods of time and need nutritional or feeding bags or specific combinations of drugs that need to be monitored and adjusted.
Out-patient pharmacies are much like retail facilities where pharmacists are dispensing prescriptions to people in the public. These are most likely patients that are checking out of the hospital and need to pick up prescriptions such as antibiotics and pain medication. In smaller, rural areas, the clinics are sometimes run out of the hospital facility so this could also be the towns only pharmacy.
Oncology pharmacists are found in larger, populated areas and work directly with both the oncology specialist and the patient. Job duties include making dosing adjustments to medications, managing antibiotic therapy, pain management and helping control nausea and vomiting. Oncology pharmacists work closely with patients to educate them on medications and to help manage symptoms.
Long Term Care pharmacists work in long term care facilities or nursing homes. This is much like an in-patient facility in the fact that the pharmacists are monitoring physician medication orders for appropriateness of drug, dosage and potential interactions. This is very important in long term care facilities because of the amount of medication that elderly patients are prescribed and because of their weakened immune system. Pharmacists may also work to determine what the best possible way of administering the medication may be such as an IV drip if they can not physically ingest pills.
Mail Order is a relatively new type of pharmacy that is becoming very popular among pharmacists who would rather focus on dispensing rather than patient care. Many health insurance policies now provide and even recommend mail order prescriptions in 90 day supplies for a reduced cost. These prescriptions are sent to large facilities that house many medications to be distributed through the mail. A pharmacists job is to review prescriptions and call physicians for verifications, complete forms to advise patients of procedures and drug side effects and maintain pharmacy records and database. This position has no patient or customer contact.
Consulting pharmacists usually work for Health Systems or LTC facilities to help reduce their overall drug costs by analyzing pharmacy trends, presenting new medication information to physicians and reviewing member or patient drug profiles. They are in charge of changing dosages or combinations of medications to ensure that the facility is operating in the most cost effective manner (BLS.gov).
In conclusion, there are many opportunities available for students graduating with a degree in pharmacy. Pharmacists have the flexibility of choosing positions in areas they are most comfortable because of the wide variety of specialties and because of this, many pharmacist are extremely satisfied with their career and work late into life.
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