Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who specialize in the right way to use, store, preserve, and provide medicine. They can guide you on how to use medications, and let you know about any potential adverse effects of what you take. They fill prescriptions issued by doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Pharmacists also contribute to research and testing of new drugs. They work in pharmacies, medical clinics, hospitals, universities, and government institutions.
What Does a Pharmacist Do?
People have been using plants and other natural substances as medicine for thousands of years. However, the practice of professional pharmacy became its own separate professional field in the mid-nineteenth century.
Pharmacists distribute prescription drugs to individuals. They also provide advice to patients and other health professionals on how to use or take medication, the correct dose of a drug, and potential side effects. Plus, they can make sure that a drug won’t interact badly with other medications you take or health conditions you have.
They can also provide information about general health topics like diet and exercise, as well as advice on products like home healthcare supplies and medical equipment.
Compounding (the mixing of ingredients to form medications) is a very small part of a modern pharmacists’ practice. Nowadays, pharmaceutical companies produce medicines and provide them to pharmacies, where pharmacists measure the right dosage amounts for patients.
Education and Training
In order to become a pharmacist in the U.S., a person needs a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from an institution that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).
Even though admissions requirements vary depending on the university, all PharmD programs require students to take postsecondary courses in chemistry, biology, and physics. Additionally, pharmacy programs require at least 2 years of undergraduate study, with most requiring a bachelor’s degree. Students must also take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
PharmD programs take about 4 years to finish. Additional coursework for a degree in this field includes courses in pharmacology and medical ethics. Students also complete internships in hospitals, clinics, or retail pharmacies to gain real-life experience.
Pharmacists must also take continuing education courses to keep up with the latest advances in pharmacological science.
Reasons to See a Pharmacist
Pharmacists are one of the most easily-accessible health care professionals. Every pharmacy has a licensed pharmacist, and you can speak to one without making an appointment. Some of the reasons to see a pharmacist include:
Answering Medical and Drug-Related Questions
Pharmacists are qualified to answer most medical or drug-related questions you may have. They can explain what each medication you’re taking is for, how you are supposed to take it, and what you can expect while on the medication.
Filling Your Prescriptions
Once you have a prescription from your doctor, you can take it to the pharmacy where the pharmacist will fill the order. If you get all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy, they can better track your medicinal history and provide you with a written history if needed.
Safely Disposing of Unwanted Medicines
If you have any unused or unwanted medicines, it’s best to get rid of them so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Taking them to the pharmacy is the best and safest way to dispose of them.
Simple Health Checks
Pharmacists are qualified to perform simple healthcare procedures like taking your blood pressure and temperature, testing your blood sugar levels, and checking your cholesterol. They can also diagnose everyday ailments like the cold, flu, aches, pains, cuts, and rashes, just to name a few. They’ll then be able to recommend the right treatment or let you know if you should see a doctor.
You can get your annual flu shot and, in most states, other vaccines, too, at the pharmacy. Most of the time you do not need an appointment, and the whole process takes only a few minutes.
What to Expect at the Pharmacist
When visiting the pharmacist, you can expect that your personal and medical information will be protected and kept private. If you don’t want other customers to overhear your conversation or questions, you can ask the pharmacist to speak with you in a quiet, private area. You should feel comfortable asking them any questions you have, and they should be able to provide all the information you need regarding any medication you’re taking.