Professor Duncan Craig
Chair, Pharmacy Schools Council
Director, School of Pharmacy, UCL
For the third largest healthcare profession in the UK, there are a surprising number of misconceptions held by the public about pharmacy. However, if you are thinking about pursuing a career in the field, you should be equipped with all the facts.
Myth: Pharmacy is all about dispensing medicines
Traditionally, dispensing has been a core role of the pharmacist. Nowadays, however, the extent to which dispensing features as part of a pharmacist’s role depends on the sector in which they practise.
In any typical day, pharmacists in patient facing roles will manage and monitor patients and review patients’ medicines; some may even contribute to the dispensing process, administer vaccinations and prescribe medicines for patients.
Myth: Pharmacists can’t specialise
There are many opportunities for pharmacists in patient facing roles to specialise. Pharmacists can specialise in a range of clinical areas including diabetes, mental health, cancer care, minor ailments and urgent care. These specialist clinical roles reflect the increased complexity of medicines in the treatment of patients.
Pharmacists may also be independent prescribers, and will, like doctors, be able to prescribe for any condition within their clinical competence. Indeed, recently adopted pharmacy standards mean that in the near future, on completion of their degrees and foundation year, all new pharmacists will be independent prescribers.
Pharmacists are increasingly working as part of general practice teams, and there are exciting new roles for pharmacists in settings such as urgent and emergency care.
Myth: Employment prospects for pharmacists are limited
This couldn’t be further from the truth! When I qualified there were four main career paths for pharmacists following registration: community, hospital, industry and academia.
In recent years, the offering has expanded in line with the pharmacist’s expanding role as a science-based clinical practitioner. Pharmacists are increasingly working as part of general practice teams, and there are exciting new roles for pharmacists in settings such as urgent and emergency care.
As a pharmacist, approximately 80% of your skills are transferable, and there is flexibility to combine several pharmacy roles through a ‘portfolio career’. Equally, pharmacists can work in other areas such as government, research, education, drug discovery, regulatory affairs, finance and the media.
Pharmacists are experts in medicines and their use. Their understanding of how to apply science to clinical situations enables them to make a unique contribution to patient care. If you want a stable career where the work is highly rewarding and you can be challenged, then pharmacy may be for you. Don’t listen to the myths – get the facts.