What is a Pharmacist?

A pharmacist is someone who traditionally works in a pharmacy (chemist shop, UK) and is in charge of the dispensing of prescription medications. A pharmacist has expert knowledge of medications and can advise members of the public in this matter and will also give advice on over-the-counter remedies that can be purchased for minor ailments or non-serious illnesses such as a cold.

There are also specific specialty pharmacists, some of them being veterinary, oncology, clinical, nuclear, consultant and industrial. Others may work in research relating to the pharmaceutical industry, researching new drugs and other health and nutrition issues.

Also known as: Druggist, Retail Pharmacist, Pharmaceutical Pharmacist, Community Pharmacist, Hospital Pharmacist, Registered Pharmacist, Clinical Pharmacist, Staff Pharmacist

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What does a Pharmacist do?

The pharmacist is often the first point of call for someone suffering from a minor illness or in the initial stages of an illness, and relevant advice is given. In some countries now, especially in Europe, community pharmacists have been given prescribing power. This means that there are certain medications that can be prescribed by the pharmacist after a brief consultation with a patient. Additional requirements are often required of the pharmacist in order to be allowed to prescribe certain medications.

In hospital pharmacies, the job involves more specific drug measurements and preparations - for example confirming prescribed calculations of doses dependent on the patient's weight, and making sure that the correct dose is given. Hospital pharmacies deal with stronger and more dangerous drugs more often than community pharmacies do, and provide a vital service within the hospital. Generally, all pharmacists have expert knowledge about medicines and can apply this in different ways, depending on their chosen speciality or area of work.

What is the workplace of a Pharmacist like?

The workplace of a pharmacist will vary depending on the area of specialty. Typically a pharmacy is a small shop or a small department within a supermarket or larger drugstore where the pharmacist will work closely with dispensers and sales associates.

A pharmacist has a somewhat social job and deals with many different people in the workplace day-to-day, including customers and drug representatives. Pharmacies can get busy and being able to work quickly when under pressure will be helpful. Hospital pharmacies are much quieter and less busy, there are fewer people to deal with on a daily basis and only medications to dispense; patients in a hospital are usually seeing a doctor, so there is no need for the pharmacist to give consultations.

In a research position the environment will vary as well. There may be a lot of interaction with patients involved in clinical trials, or with drug companies and representatives, or on the other hand, there may be quiet laboratories dedicated to research. Within the field, there is enough variation to choose a specialty which will allow for the pharmacist to work in the environment best suited to his/her own personality.

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