Do you want to become a pharmacist? Before pursuing the pharmacy career field, it is good to have knowledge about what tasks you will be doing after becoming the pharmacist. The primary responsibility of a pharmacist is to make sure patients get safe and appropriate medication.
Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who dispense medications and guide patients regarding the safe usage of drugs. And, depending on the state and the patient’s ailment, the pharmacist may prescribe medication. The eligibility for pharmacists to write prescriptions differs from one state to another. In many states, pharmacists are not allowed to do so, while some states allow pharmacists to prescribe medications under some circumstances.
When you are planning to pursue a career in pharmacy, you may have so many questions. Is the pharmacist’s task is limited to dispensing drugs and packaging them, or it’s more than that? One question people often ask is, “Do pharmacists make drugs?”
Scientists that work in drug manufacturing can have different backgrounds. Usually, they have a Ph.D. in pharmaceuticals. The answer to whether or not pharmacists can make drugs depends on the type of pharmacist you are talking about. Pharmacists and pharmacies are of different types.
Depending on your skills and interests, you can become a retail pharmacist, community pharmacist, hospital pharmacist, ambulatory care pharmacist, academic pharmacist, compounding pharmacist, etc. Talking about compounding pharmacies, compounding pharmacies’ traditional role is to make drugs prescribed by doctors for specific patients.
Talking about other pharmacies like retail or hospital, pharmacists’ duties and responsibilities would be different. For example, a retail pharmacist’s primary duty is to dispense medications in retail outlets, like supermarkets and drug stores. In retail pharmacies, pharmacists do various tasks like prepare & dispense medications, provide customer service, monitor stock inventory, handle insurance, etc.
In hospital pharmacies, pharmacists are responsible for monitoring the supply of medicines used in the hospital. They are in charge of purchasing, manufacturing, dispensing, and quality testing their medication stock along with pharmacy assistants and pharmacy technicians.
As we can see, a pharmacist’s duties will differ based on the type of pharmacy he/she is working in. Let’s talk about compounding pharmacy now.
What is a Compounding Pharmacy?
The traditional role of compounding pharmacies is to make drugs prescribed by doctors for specific patients. A compounding pharmacist mixes drugs to achieve the correct dosage, strength, form, formulation, and even flavor for a customized pharmaceutical drug.
In a compounding pharmacy, pharmacists prepare customized drugs and medications that are not available commercially or over the counter. The customized drug by the compounding pharmacy helps to meet the needs of an individual patient.
When commercially available and over the counter medications can’t meet an individual patient’s needs, the role of compounding pharmacist comes into play.
How do pharmacists prepare drugs?
Pharmacists perform various duties. They are responsible for different tasks. Depending on the pharmacy you are in, the skills you have, and your experience, your duties may vary. Pharmacists’ primary responsibilities include dispensing medications, ensuring the safe usage of the medicines, and providing advice to patients.
Apart from this, the pharmacist may also be responsible for preparing medications as well. Not all the medicines will be available in the pharmacy. Pharmacists are responsible for preparing drugs to help some patients who require medications that are not available in the pharmacy.
It really depends on the medication. Some medications need simple preparation techniques like adding some water to the powder to create a solution. Pharmacists may also prepare specific creams and ointments.
The primary role of pharmacists working in the compounding pharmacy would be to prepare the customized medications for individual patients. For any particular patient, when the commercially available medications or over the counter medications can’t help, customized medications are created by compounding pharmacists. And, pharmacists working in compounding pharmacy may need to prepare more complex medications.
This may include making the medication from scratch or forming the medicines that are not available commercially.
Do pharmacists just count pills?
Many people often ask this question, do pharmacists just count pills, or they perform other tasks as well?
One of the misconceptions about what pharmacists do is, ‘they just count pills.’ If this was it, what would be the need to spending long years getting an education, taking exams, and getting the pharmacist licensure?
Here are some duties pharmacists need to perform: double-check the dose, drug route, frequency, interactions with other medications, etc., counseling patients regarding the safe use of medications, fill the prescriptions, checking the stock inventory, and many others. These are the primary duties of retail pharmacists. Your responsibilities as a pharmacist may differ based on the type of pharmacy you are into. For example, the primary task of a compounding pharmacist is to make customized medications.
While filling the prescription, the pharmacist needs to keep in mind the regulations. When handing the prescription to the patient, the pharmacist (retail) need to make entry into the software system. Doing so will help to manage the stock inventory of different medications.
The pharmacist also needs to ensure that the prescribed medicine would not react with the patient’s other medications. After passing all the above stages, the prescription gets filled. Hence, you can’t say that pharmacists just count pills.
What do pharmacists do behind the counter?
If we talk about retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, there are many activities that go behind the counter than just counting the pills and filling the prescriptions. Here are some activities pharmacists do behind the counter:
- Safely dispense medications
- Take phone calls from doctors and other providers to answer their questions
- Call doctors or other providers to clarify prescriptions
- Take phone calls from patients and answer their questions
- Fill narcotic medications
- Receive inventory
Making Drugs? What Do Pharmacist Really Do? Real Pharmacist Opinions
Below is information we curated from different Pharmacist forums and websites that breakdown what a Pharmacist really does behind that counter if you aren’t aware.
The only thing we changed was any grammar or spelling where needed.
1. Abilene85 “Track, track, track” – They keep track of your prescriptions to make sure the doctor prescribes the appropriate dose and to look for any possible drug interactions (this is why it is smart to pick one pharmacy and stick with it, so you know they have all your drugs on record).
2. Clbgw02 “Save physicians” – I’ve seen pharmacists absolutely save physicians’ a$$es before; don’t discount how important they can be. Remember when Dennis Quaid’s newborn twins were in the news because they got some ridiculous amount of heparin? Well, I guarantee that would happen 10x more often if not for pharmacists. Also, we used to have a pharmacist round with us in the ICU and you’d be surprised how much they can add to patient care.
3. Law2Doc “Pharmacist big part of hospital team” – These days many medicine teams in hospitals have a pharmacist that rounds with them and monitors their prescriptions. There are a ton of things to keep track of with complicated patients and when you have a dozen patients each on twenty meds, it’s pretty helpful to have someone “suggest” that you don’t want to prescribe both X and Y to a patient due to the drug-drug interactions, or “suggest” that 30mg is too high a dose for someone with a particular ailment. Having someone on the team who really knows pharmacology (and has the time and training to focus in on it), rather than just throwing drugs at a patient willy nilly, is huge. So yeah, a good and alert pharmacist will have your back. They also often meet with the patients at discharge and discuss their drug regimen, which may improve compliance.
4. MD2b06 “Residency shows you the value” – You won’t truly realize the value of a pharmacist until you’ve been in residency and are responsible for God knows how many patients, each of whom seem to be on 15-20 different meds. Only then will you recognize how little you really know. While many pages are annoying, pharmacy pages are usually legit and can often keep you out of trouble. They help out a ton, and are great to have around. So respect your Pharmacist at all times as they are doing so many things at any given time.
5. Kypdurron5 “Role of Pharmacist more limited in U.S.” – I think it’s kind of silly how little pharmacists are allowed to do in the US. In many other countries pharmacists can give you a wide array of prescription medications for low-grade medical issues. Aside from hospital pharmacists who may play a more active roll in patient care, I think this is a very relevant question. Certainly they look for drug interactions, but, and correct me if I’m wrong, don’t modern pharmacy computer systems automatically flag these (e.g. Walgreens) for the pharmacists to review? I would imagine the same is true of dosage- as long as they know your age, height, and weight there’s no reason the system can’t automatically flag drugs or dosages that that are over pre-defined reasonable maximums. Does it really take a pharmacist to double check with the doctor? I wouldn’t be surprised if they already delegate this to pharmacy aids/techs. One thing I didn’t see mentioned here is that some drugs must be mixed with other things or activated in some way. But again, can’t a high school-aged pharmacy tech follow the instructions on the side of the box without a 4 year advanced degree? I’m really not arguing that pharmacists are useless- I’m arguing that they should have a little more leeway in the US in working with the pubic. And this is one way, mind you, to help decrease healthcare costs. (Bypassing doctors for the simplest of medical ailments that can be better treated with medications just slightly stronger than OTC).
6. Njac “A lot of different responsibilities” – I think it’s kind of silly how little pharmacists are allowed to do in the US. In many other countries pharmacists can give you a wide array of prescription medications for low-grade medical issues. Aside from hospital pharmacists who may play a more active roll in patient care, I think this is a very relevant question. Certainly they look for drug interactions, but, and correct me if I’m wrong, don’t modern pharmacy computer systems automatically flag these (e.g. Walgreens) for the pharmacists to review? I would imagine the same is true of dosage- as long as they know your age, height, and weight there’s no reason the system can’t automatically flag drugs or dosages that that are over pre-defined reasonable maximums. Does it really take a pharmacist to double check with the doctor? I wouldn’t be surprised if they already delegate this to pharmacy aids/techs. One thing I didn’t see mentioned here is that some drugs must be mixed with other things or activated in some way. But again, can’t a high school-aged pharmacy tech follow the instructions on the side of the box without a 4 year advanced degree? I’m really not arguing that pharmacists are useless- I’m arguing that they should have a little more leeway in the US in working with the pubic. And this is one way, mind you, to help decrease healthcare costs. (Bypassing doctors for the simplest of medical ailments that can be better treated with medications just slightly stronger than OTC).
From this article, one thing is clear that pharmacists are responsible for so many tasks. And, depending on their pharmacy specialty, their duties may vary. One of the duties of pharmacists is to make drugs. When over the counter medication can’t help the patient, pharmacists may need to prepare customized medication.
This is where you may need to step back and take a look at exactly what you want to do specifically as a Pharmacist. You can specialize that will bring down the tasks like with a Warfarin clinic or a Nuclear Pharmacist. These usually end up being higher paid jobs because they are niched down this is how it works for almost any profession. When you niche down you can charge more your time so this is something you should consider.