Careers in pharmacy
Take a good look at yourself. If a life in science interests you and you want to make a contribution to society, then you could be on the way to becoming a pharmacist.
The other thing to consider is what sort of person you are. Are you good with people? Do you like them and care about them? You will need to be if you are going to deal with patients on a day-to-day basis, looking after their health concerns and perhaps offering a word of comfort or reassurance.
Or maybe your talent lies in finding out things, discovering new ways to tackle the job. Pharmacists are increasingly involved in cutting-edge medical research and there are exciting new ways of diagnosing and treating illness on the horizon. You could be part of those discoveries.
If the answer is “yes” to these questions then perhaps it’s worth your time to look a little more deeply at pharmacy as a career choice.
Tell Me About Pharmacy
The role of pharmacists has expanded extensively in recent years, making it a hugely varied profession. Of course, local pharmacies still thrive and community pharmacists continue to supply medicine, counsel patients on how to use their medicines properly and help them get better.
However, in the 21st century, pharmacy pops up all over the place. Pharmacists are the ultimate experts in medicines right across the board and it would be a waste not to use that skill widely. And so you will find pharmacists at work in discovering new active ingredients of medicines and formulating fresh ways in which they can be used.
Look at any hospital ward and pharmacists are there as well, helping patients, doctors and nurses manage all aspects of medicine. Pharmacists also play a large part at a senior level within the NHS framework, planning strategies, making the best use of resources allocated for medicines and ensuring they are well spent.
Pharmacists even have a hand in assessing applications by drug companies to manufacture new medicines, helping to protect public health and maintain standards. This increasingly vibrant profession is changing all the time. For example, there will be an increasing role to play in social care. New roles are evolving constantly.
Where Can Pharmacy Take Me?
Pharmacy can put you squarely in the role of a key player in the future of healthcare worldwide. But what do pharmacists actually do? And where do they put their skills to use? It all depends on what branch of the profession you choose.
Community Pharmacist Careers
This is the area of pharmacy you are probably already familiar with. We all know what it’s like to be able to drop in to consult our local pharmacy about a bad chest or a rash. Communication skills are important here as you build relationships with patients.
As well as dishing out prescriptions, you’ll be counselling people on how to use medicines in safe and appropriate ways. You might be organising free delivery for housebound people, or supervising the heroin substitute methadone and helping a patient’s recovery from addiction. If you care about your fellow human being, you’ll get a real buzz from solving patients’ problems.
And, of course, there will be the challenge of financial management and responsibility for staff, premises and stock. You’ll find there are a thousand ways of being an important part of your local community and you will feel as though you are making a positive contribution to society. It will give you a tremendous sense of worth.
Hospital Pharmacist Careers
You’ll be working alongside specialists, doctors, nurses and patients in clinical areas. Again, you’ll need good communication skills and you’ll be up to speed on IT.
In hospitals, pharmacists are really getting to the centre of things. Robots are already being used to dispense medicines and this is freeing up pharmacists to work with patients on the ward and becoming members of the decision-making team across a whole range of specialisms; conditions such as diabetes or heart failure, for example.
When a patient is admitted to hospital, the pharmacist will take their medication history and see the patient everyday, check their medicines and discuss their progress with the doctor. When the patient leaves hospital, the pharmacist might then liaise with their GP.
You can choose to take your skills into management or a clinical specialism, eventually becoming a consultant with similar status to that of a doctor. For example, you might become a clinical director, running the hospital’s pharmacy staff and managing areas such as pharmacy, pathology and radiology.
Industrial Pharmacist Careers
This is where an interest in research comes in; developing gene therapy and nanomedicines, to name just two exciting new areas of medical research. Pharmacists are needed to develop them.
Nano-medicines — the creation of structures 100 nanometres (one nanometre is a billionth of a metre) or smaller in size — are an exciting new development in medicine. Scientists predict that they will soon be applied to disease treatment, targeting key biological aspects of diseases with very low side effects. Industrial pharmacists work alongside scientists who specialise in other areas to discover new ways of combating disease and improving manufacturing and production techniques. This is the stuff of the future.
Primary Care Pharmacist Careers
Primary care pharmacists operate at a senior level in the healthcare system. They have a strategic role, making the best use of resources allocated for medicines and ensuring they are well spent. They also analyse medicines and work closely with hospitals, GPs, practice nurses and other community healthcare professionals.
In recent years there has been a big shift in focus within the NHS towards primary care — preventing people from becoming ill and encouraging healthier lifestyles so as to keep them out of hospital. Prevention is better than cure and pharmacists are ideally placed to play their part.
Regulatory Pharmacy Careers
Regulatory pharmacists work for government bodies such as the MHRA set up to help protect public health. Their job is to ensure that medicines submitted by drug companies are safe before they can be manufactured and marketed to the public. You need critical evaluation skills for this branch of the profession.
Academic Pharmacy Careers
Whether it’s teaching, researching, practising or a mix of all three, academic pharmacists enjoy exciting careers in universities and research institutes.
Teacher practitioners spend on average around 60% of their time working in hospital, community or industrial pharmacy and the other 40% of the time as a pharmacy teacher or lecturer.
Alternatively, you might like the idea of researching a whole wealth of topics from drug design through to the provision of pharmacy services. As a research pharmacist you will enjoy a rewarding and satisfying career, knowing your work is helping improve countless lives. Put simply, academic pharmacists are involved in a huge variety of exciting roles, often working on their own initiative.
What Do Veterinary Pharmacists Do?
As a pharmacist you can make a valuable contribution to the welfare of animals by supplying a professional service to pet owners. Since autumn 2005 much more emphasis has been placed by the government on involving pharmacy in the supply of animal medicines and the dispensing of veterinary prescriptions.
More than half of the people who visit a pharmacy own a pet and many of them do not know the correct treatments to give to their cats and dogs for common problems such as worms and fleas.
Pharmacists in rural settings are often involved in helping the farming industry by supplying medicines for farm livestock.
Where Can Veterinary Pharmacy Take Me?
An interest in veterinary pharmacy can take you into almost every branch of the profession.
As a community pharmacist you will be able to offer advice to customers about the health of their pets, whether cats, dogs, rabbits or even fish.
You may wish to get involved in the supply of medicines to livestock farmers for use in cattle, sheep, pigs or goats. This is an area of the pharmacy profession that requires a high level of business and selling skills and may be a challenge that appeals to you. Veterinary pharmacy can also take you into teaching, industry or a government body such as the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.
How Do I Get There?
If your interest is in veterinary pharmacy then find out which schools of pharmacy provide a veterinary option by contacting their admissions departments and make sure in addition that you have an element of veterinary pharmacy in your preregistration year.
There are over 22 UK pharmacy degrees which are approved by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
For more information on studying pharmacy in the UK contact The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.