Pharmacists are health professionals who practice the art and science of pharmacy. In their traditional role, pharmacists typically take a request for medicines from a prescribing health care provider in the form of a medical prescription and dispense the medication to the patient and counsel them on the proper use and adverse effects of that medication. In this role, pharmacists ensure the safe and effective use of medications. Pharmacists also participate in disease state management, where they optimize and monitor drug therapy – often in collaboration with physicians and/or other health professionals. Pharmacists have many areas of expertise and are a critical source of medical knowledge in clinics, hospitals, and community pharmacies throughout the world.
Pharmacists are sometimes small-business owners, owning the pharmacy in which they practice. Their specialized knowledge as skilled professionals makes them a vital part of any healthcare team. They act as a learned intermediary between patients and other healthcare providers to ensure that proper medical therapy is chosen and implemented in the best way possible.
Pharmacists are sometimes referred to as chemists (or dispensing chemists), which sometimes causes confusion with scientists in the field of chemistry. This term is a historical one, since pharmacists originally were required to complete an undergraduate degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry (PhC) and were known as "Pharmaceutical Chemists".
One of the most important roles that pharmacists are currently taking on is one of pharmaceutical care. Pharmaceutical care involves taking direct responsibility for patients and their disease states, medications, and the management of each in order to improve the outcome for each individual patient. Pharmaceutical care has many benefits that include but are not limited to:
Pharmacists are often the first point-of-contact for patients with health inquiries. This means that pharmacists have large roles in the assessing medication management in the primary care of patients. These roles may include, but are not limited to:
In some states, pharmacists have prescriptive authority to either independently prescribe under their own authority or in collaboration with a primary care physician through an agreed upon protocol.
The requirements of pharmacy education, pharmacist licensure and post-graduate continuing education vary from country to country and between regions/localities within countries. In most countries, prospective pharmacists study pharmacy at a pharmacy school or related institution. Upon graduation, they are licensed either nationally or by region to dispense medication of various types in the settings for which they have been trained.
In the United States, a Pharmacist must complete 4 years of graduate level training at a pharmacy school, usually after receiving a bachlores degree from another undergraduate institution, although some pharmacy schools only require two years of undergraduate education and the completion of a list of prerequisites. Pharmacists receive a PharmD, or Doctorate of Pharmacy, upon graduation, and licensure after passing the NAPLEX. The amount of college education varies but is usually 6-9 years.