Community Pharmacy and Consultant Pharmacists
Nearly everyone is familiar with community pharmacists and the pharmacy in which they practice. Six out of every ten pharmacists provide care to patients in a community setting. You probably visit the community pharmacist more often than you do any other member of the health team. Pharmacists talk to people when they are healthy and when they are sick; when they are “just browsing” or when they are concerned with an emergency; when they have specific needs as well as when they are seeking advice or information. Pharmacists are playing an increasing role in the “wellness” movement, especially through counseling about preventive medicine. According to one estimate, pharmacists receive more than two billion inquiries a year from their patrons.
Pharmacists serve patients and the community by providing information and advice on health, providing medications and associated services, and by referring patients to other sources of help and care, such as physicians, when necessary. Likewise, advances in the use of computers in pharmacy practice now allow pharmacists to spend more time educating patients and maintaining and monitoring patient records. As a result, patients have come to depend on the pharmacist as a health care and information resource of the highest caliber.
Pharmacists, in and out of the community pharmacy, are specialists in the science and clinical use of medications. They must be knowledgeable about the composition of drugs, their chemical and physical properties, and their manufacture and uses, as well as how products are tested for purity and strength. Additionally, a pharmacist needs to understand the activity of a drug and how it will work within the body. More and more prescribers rely on pharmacists for information about various drugs, their availability, and their activity, just as patrons do when they ask about nonprescription medications.
If pharmacists develop a desire to combine their professional talents with the challenge of the fast-moving community pharmacy practice, they will often consider a management position within a chain pharmacy practice or ownership of their own pharmacy. In chain practice, career paths usually begin at the store level with possible subsequent advancement to a position at the district, regional, or corporate level. Many chain companies have management development programs in marketing operations, legal affairs, third party programs, computerization, and pharmacy affairs. The spirit of entrepreneurship and motivation has enabled many pharmacists to successfully own their own pharmacies or, through establishing consultation services, own their own pharmacy practices.