What Is The Role Of Pharmacist In Hospital? (Inpatient Pharmacists)

If you want to chase a well-paying job in the healthcare field, becoming a pharmacist can be a great idea. When it comes to becoming a pharmacist, you have different options available. Pharmacists work in different areas and their duties & responsibilities vary based on the pharmacy type they are working in. Here are different types of pharmacies:

  • Community pharmacy
  • Hospital pharmacy
  • Retail pharmacy
  • Compounding pharmacy
  • Industrial pharmacy
  • Ambulatory care pharmacy
  • Consulting pharmacy
  • Home care pharmacy
  • Regulatory pharmacy
  • Academic pharmacy

Inpatient Hospital Pharmacist

These are some major types of pharmacies. Depending on your skills, interests, and knowledge, you can become a community pharmacist, hospital pharmacist, retail pharmacist, industrial pharmacist, etc.

The main task of pharmacists is to dispense medication to patients and ensure its safe use. These are two basic tasks pharmacists do. Apart from this, they are responsible for many other tasks as well. It differs based on pharmacy type to pharmacy type. For example, the responsibilities of retail pharmacists would be slightly different than that of hospital pharmacists.

So what is the role of an inpatient or hospital pharmacist?

Hospital Pharmacists role mainly consists of monitoring the supply and purchasing of all medicines that are being used in the hospital while. Along with that role they also need to manufacture, dispense and test the quality of the medications that are to be stocked and used. Luckily they do have the help of Pharmacy Technicians and Assistants. 

The role of course is not limited to the above. So in this post, we will talk about hospital pharmacy. Hospital pharmacy is one of the significant pharmacy types. A hospital pharmacy is a place where the management of medications occurs in a hospital, medical clinic, or nursing home. As a hospital pharmacist, you may have to work closely with other healthcare professionals to ensure the medicine to patients is safe.

Role of pharmacist in a hospital

Depending on the pharmacy type (it could be the hospital, retail, compounding, etc.) you are in, your role, duties, responsibilities, salary, etc. would differ slightly. If we talk about hospital pharmacists, their duties can extend beyond the ward.

As a hospital pharmacist, you will be responsible for monitoring the supply of all medicines used in the hospital and are in charge of purchasing, manufacturing, dispensing, and quality testing their medication stock along with help from pharmacy assistants and pharmacy technicians.

Talking about salary, your salary as a hospital pharmacist will vary depending on your skills, knowledge you have, experience, etc. According to the report by Indeed, the average salary of a hospital pharmacist in the United States is $120,958. And, the common benefits you can expect are 401(k) matching, dental insurance, relocation assistance, paid time off, life insurance, paid housing, health insurance, vision insurance, employee discount, pet insurance, prescription drug insurance, etc.

The benefits you can expect as a hospital pharmacist could differ from one company/hospital to another. The hospital pharmacist may be an inpatient or outpatient pharmacist. Let’s talk about the inpatient pharmacy first.

What is inpatient pharmacy?

Inpatient pharmacy provides services to the wards, clinics, and other units in the hospital through the unit dose supply system, “top-up” medicines stock, and ready supplies system.

As an inpatient pharmacist, you will be responsible for various services including distributive services and pharmaceutical services. It includes services like dispensing of all medications, orders screening for drug-drug interactions, routine quality assurance, pharmacokinetic services, etc.

Inpatient pharmacist plays a key role in the hospital pharmacy. They collaborate with all members of the health care team, patients, and their caregivers to provide patient care services.

Under inpatient pharmacy, you will be responsible for various activities like conducting physical assessments, interacting with patients, interpreting laboratory values, collaborating with other professionals, educating other professionals, etc. To become an inpatient pharmacist, you need to have good management skills, innovative thinking, stress handling capacity, and multiple task handling capacity.

What is outpatient pharmacy?

Outpatient pharmacy is the pharmacy in which patients do not occupy beds in hospitals, clinics, healthcare centers, or any other places. Under outpatient pharmacy, pharmacists play multiple roles. It includes dispensing medications, consulting patients, the transition of care, etc.

The most exciting part about being an outpatient pharmacist will be direct patient contact and collaboration with other healthcare providers. And, the least appealing part about outpatient pharmacy is administration and workload.

Just like inpatient pharmacists, outpatient pharmacists are also responsible for conducting physical assessments, interacting with patients, interpreting laboratory values, maintaining relationships, collaborating with other professionals, educating other professionals, etc.

What is the difference between inpatient and outpatient pharmacy?

Hospital pharmacy is an important pharmacy type. As we have seen, pharmacies are of different types. Pharmacists can choose and work in a particular pharmacy type based on their skills, interests, and knowledge. One of those types is hospital pharmacy. The hospital pharmacist can be an inpatient pharmacist or outpatient pharmacist. Now, what’s the difference between both?

Inpatient pharmacy provides services to the wards, clinics, and other units in the hospital through the unit dose supply system, “top-up” medicines stock, and ready supplies system. Inpatient pharmacies are used for the dispensing and control of medications for patients within the hospital. As inpatients pharmacies provide services within the hospitals, all hospitals have inpatient pharmacies.

Talking about outpatient pharmacies, it is the hospital pharmacy type in which patients do not occupy beds in hospitals, clinics, healthcare centers, or any other places. Outpatient pharmacies are usually off-campus, however, you may find them on hospital property as well. In most cases, they are in high traffic areas like hospital lobbies or near the primary entrance to serve customers. Under outpatient pharmacy, pharmacists play multiple roles. It includes dispensing medications, consulting patients, the transition of care, etc. Most outpatient pharmacies also have a retail component to sell over the counter medications and other drug store items.

Whether it’s inpatient or outpatient pharmacy, security would be important for both types of pharmacies. Security needs to be a high priority for both as the risk of theft and robbery is high.

Role Of Inpatient Pharmacist

According to real Pharmacists. We didn’t want you to take our word on this so we went out to different forums gathering information from people are out there living the life of an Inpatient Pharmacist today or were in the past. This information was curated so the only thing that has been changed is any grammar/spelling that needed to be.

1. NNNN32125 “Depends on specialization” – It depends on the clinical services you’re talking about. There’s different areas of specialty pharmacy such as Nuclear medicine, oncology, behavioral health, ICU, cardiac care, anticoagulant, etc…Each hospital is a little different and portrays a clinical pharmacist differently. In my institution we spend time doing chart review, therapeutic interchange, interdisciplinary rounds, etc. The money piece is really dependent on the area you’re looking at among other things. If you’re talking about only wanting to make money, then retail is where you should go. Authority piece is based on the state you practice in, the organization/hospital you work for, and the protocols that are in place.

2. Jokersmiles “Mid Level Provider” – A pharmacist is a mid level provider (physician’s assistant, nurse, and pharmacists) so they are all in the same level.

A clinical pharmacist, although a doctorate + residency, is still a mid level provider and they do not do any first hard treatment on patients like a physician does.

3. DrNyvia “Good point of contact for nurses and doctors” –

Inpatient clinical pharmacists ideally work in a decentralized pharmacy where they can actually walk around different parts of the hospital or get stationed in a unit outside of the central pharmacy (e.g. ICU, ED, Neuro, etc). They are a good point of contact for nurses and physicians if there are any questions about a patient’s medication regimen or specific drug dosing questions. However, their job is no more or less important than a pharmacist that may be verifying all day in the central pharmacy. Both are important jobs, just different practices. As far as “authority,” inpatient clinical pharmacists cannot prescribe, but they can recommend changes just like any other pharmacist should be capable of doing. Clinical pharmacists are also more involved in patient education in terms of warfarin and discharge counseling.

Ambulatory care clinical pharmacists are able to see patients directly on a one-on-one or group basis to manage their chronic medications and educate about their chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes). They can review/order labs and make recommendations based off of patient-specific factors and chart notes. They can also prescribe via a protocol (or without one if you are at a VA) and create their own follow-up times.

4. RXFORLIFE2004 “Can be very demanding” – Don’t expect too much from clinical pharmacy that you dreamt about during classroom lectures from your professors. A lot of ur professors are actually BS a lot , trying to prove that they r smart…but in reality, they’re just a bunch of wimps at the hospitals.

Anyway, back to reality, yes…that’s pretty much it. Clinical pharmacy is just a fancy term. The core of pharmacy is despensing model, and as long as pharmacy around, that is still the case. People still see you as a dispensing guy.

Surprisingly, how many times when i make rounds on the floor trying to dose a vancomycin or starting a new TPN order, a nurse from nowhere would come up and ask, “DO you bring my metoprolol dose for my patient?”. Sometimes, they don’t even look or bother care to look at ur badge (which says, Pharm.D btw) and then call pharmacy “The pharmacy guy is here but my metoprolol missing medication is not here. I need it NOW. My patient’s BP is 160/100).

5. Typ B Pharm D “Days vary a lot” – the term “inpatient” pharmacist isnt usually used .. it’s typically known as a “hospital pharmacist”. And their days can vary a lot. The idea of “clinical” pharmacy means that the pharmacist serves as a more extensive resource to the dr to help directly manage the patient’s drug therapy decisions.

Pharmacists that work in an inpatient environment (hospital or Ltac) will spend part of their day preparing or (most likely) supervising the preparation of all the custom prepped IV bags for patients (dissolving powders and mixing drug solutions), part of their day entering orders into the system for each new med, supervising technicians as they fill the various med cabinets in the hospital, and helping run the pharmacy as a business, like inventory, ordering, looking at ways to reduce costs, etc. Also, at least in the small hospital where i worked, they will work on some calculations for patients to change their therapy, such as for warfarin, vancomycin, pain control, and nutrition. They also spend some time responding to drug information requests from doctors about ways to use drugs or how to switch therapies. For example, when a patient is going to need a taper off of a drug that their body has become physically dependent on, like a blood pressure med or a narcotic, pharmacist will be called to make up a step down / taper off plan. Also they may round with doctors and meet with committees to decide the best plan of care for individual patients and for the hospital pharmacy’s bottom line. Where i worked, the biggest source of patient/pharmacist communication (i worked in a high acuity facility, so patients wouldnt often be able to talk until they were good enough to get sent home) was in discharge counseling. When the patient left the hospital, a pharmacist would spend 20 minutes or so talking to the patient about how to use their meds, what each one is doing, why they are important, etc.

That pretty much sums up what happens at a small size hospital for a “staff or inpatient” pharmacist. At larger hospitals you could expect to be able to specialize in one or more areas, or rotate through different roles on different days. With a designation of “clinical pharmacist” which is employed at larger or academic centers, you would spend more time doing projects to start, stop, or modify drug therapy for specific patients given their medical history and background, whether it be on rounds, in an office, or in committees.

Even though i’m not planning on going into hospital pharmacy, i was very happy with my small hospital experience, and would encourage any pre pharm or new pharmacy student to attempt to find work in the small hospital environment. While there are advantages to working or interning in both large and small facilities, at a small hospital pharmacy you will be able to pick up on and practice more skills than if you remained specialized in a larger department. On the flipside, larger hospitals will sometimes have programs to put their pharmacists into clinical niches where you can become a true expert in a specialty. Also large hospitals will no doubt leave you with better job connections. (But a workplace where you can really get to know your boss could lead to a better reference)

Residencies are required to work as a clinical specialist in a large hospital, urban center, or academic hospital. They are not typically required for “staff” positions in most hospitals, or as a generalist in a small hospital or rural market. Some people are predicting that even staff jobs will more or less require residencies, either now or in the future, in many cities where there are a lot of pharmacists seeking jobs. Some academic centers only hire pharmacists with residencies, simply due to the prestige level of the hospital and the advanced responsibilities pharmacists can pick up there.

Final Thoughts

A hospital pharmacist can be an inpatient pharmacist or outpatient pharmacist. Your duties and responsibilities as a pharmacist will differ slightly based on whether you are an inpatient pharmacist or an outpatient pharmacist. However, the primary responsibilities of hospital pharmacists are monitoring the supply of all medicines used in the hospital, quality testing, and dispensing of medicines among a variety of other tasks.


Danielle Winner

Hello my name is Danielle Winner. Welcome to my site on Pharmacy School and tips and tricks to hopefully help you get in. It's not easy but hopefully you can learn to not make mistakes that students (myself included) make. Good luck on your journey. I graduated from Albany School of Pharmacy in May 2010 and have had a few different jobs across the east coast of the U.S.

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