Pharmacists work closely with physicians and other health practitioners to ensure that patients are treated with the safest, most effective medications. Pharmacists routinely review medication orders, prescriptions, and medication profiles to help ensure appropriate drug selection, doses, and dosing schedule. They look for drug-drug and drug-food interactions that may be harmful. If a pharmacist identifies a drug related problem or detects a potentially dangerous situation, she/he is responsible for notifying the doctor, patient, or both, and recommends potential alternatives.
Pharmacists with advanced training may collaborate with other providers to focus on direct patient care activities. These activities may include policy development or research rather than reviewing and approving prescription orders. They help make sure people can afford their medications, look at responses to drug therapies and address ways to minimize drug side effects.
Where you might work: Pharmacists work in clinics, government agencies, home health care agencies, hospitals, insurance companies, mail order pharmacy companies, pharmaceutical companies, retail pharmacy stores, supermarket pharmacies, and universities.
Job Outlook: The demand for pharmacists is expected to be high through 2016 due to the increased needs for pharmaceuticals by a larger and aging population. Also, scientific advances will make more drug products available, while increasingly sophisticated consumers will be seeking more information about medications.
Salary Notes: Pharmacists typically earn between $83,180 and $108,140 (or more) per year.
Education, Licensing & Certification: High school course work should include an emphasis on math and science, especially biology and chemistry. To practice in Vermont, as in other states, a doctoral degree is required. A Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) takes six years of post secondary study and requires passing a licensing exam.
For more information on a career as a pharmacist or another health career in Vermont, please call 802-527-1474.
Amanda Kennedy is a Research Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Vermont. Amanda received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University. In addition, Amanda completed her Pharmacy Practice Residency at Fletcher Allen Health Care, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow through the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
We interviewed Amanda for the Summer 2004 version of The Convener to discuss her experiences working in the Pharmacy field.
Q How did
you become interested in becoming a Pharmacist?
A I started college as a biochemistry major. At the time, my family was questioning medications that my grandmother was taking, yet no one knew what questions to ask. I felt helpless when we needed to make decisions about her healthcare and I wanted to have the knowledge to be able to help my family as well as other families. Also, my college work involved a lot a research and I didn’t like research and decided I would never conduct research. I went to pharmacy school, became a pharmacist, and then learned a little more about research. Now I conduct research 80% of the time and I love it!
Q Can you
describe the demands of your job?
A On average, I work 40 or more hours per week. Since I mostly conduct research, I must support my salary from (Continued on page 6)grants. Making sure I always have enough money to keep me going is one of the major stresses of any researcher. The bad news is that I have to rely on grants to support my salary, the good news is that the grants allow me tremendous freedom to do the research I believe is important. Also, I can work from home and be flexible with my schedule. This is especially helpful when trying to balance work and family responsibilities. I also have a teaching role that occupies about 20% of my time. I educate Vermont doctors about appropriate prescribing to encourage high-quality, safe, and cost-effective prescriptions for patients.
Q What is
a typical day like for you?
A I usually work in my office, located in an old Victorian house. Other researchers work in the other offices in my building. I am the only pharmacist in the department, but the research I do is often multidisciplinary, meaning I often work with doctors, nurses, statisticians, and others interested in the same research. I usually work independently most days and attend meetings several times per week. The environment is busy, but people are casually dressed and always willing to brainstorm about possible research projects. This is important because it allows me to be creative and not ever feel bored.
Q What personal
characteristics are desirable to be good at this job?
A To be a pharmacist, it is important to have a high attention to detail, willingness to be in school for many years, and have great communication skills. Communication skills are important because pharmacists must take complicated medical information and translate it into language that patients can understand. To be a successful researcher, in addition to the above characteristics, it is important to have a strong independent work ethic and have strong writing skills so that your grants will be funded!
special knowledge and skill do you need to be a pharmacist?
A Currently, all pharmacists require a professional college degree called a PharmD degree (Doctor of Pharmacy). After high school graduation, this usually requires 6 years of full-time college. Additional training is usually required to conduct research.
do you like best about your career?
A I love that I have combined pharmacy and research. Rather than discuss the safe use of a medicine to one patient, I can impact patients nationally with the results of my research. This hopefully means I can encourage the safe use of medicines on a large scale.
Q What requirements
exist, in addition to schooling— training, experience, certification,
A After graduating pharmacy school, I had to obtain a pharmacy license to legally work as a pharmacist. In addition to a PharmD degree, I had one year of hospital clinical training, called a residency. Then I spent two years learning how to conduct research, called a fellowship.
Q What are
the career ladder possibilities in this field?
A As a pharmacist researcher, I work in an academic or University based system. I will be promoted in rank, however the responsibilities will be essentially the same. My job will always be to obtain grants, conduct research, and publish my results. The exciting part is that I can continue to grow creatively through my research and remain challenged!
Q Can a
person specialize within this field? Into what areas?
A There are many types of pharmacists. Pharmacists work in the community, hospitals, longterm care facilities, industry, and academics. Within these settings, there are a variety of jobs that pharmacists do. The two most common are staff and clinical. Staff pharmacists are the pharmacists most people are familiar with. They dispense medications and counsel patients about the reasons the medication is being used and explain how to appropriately use the medication. Clinical pharmacists are usually required to have additional training and typically don’t work in a pharmacy. They sometimes see their own patients or work directly with doctors to recommend medications based on a patient’s condition and preferences. I am an example of a specialist working as a researcher in an academic setting. I became a pharmacist first, decided I wanted to conduct research, and then found out what training I needed to do the job I wanted to do.
Q Can someone
work flexible hours? Part or full-time? Shared time on the job?
A Flexibility depends on the type of pharmacy job you have. Many hospitals and community pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. This means pharmacists are needed at all times. This can be positive or negative. If you are a staff pharmacist and only want to work Monday through Friday during the day, it may be difficult to accommodate. Also, when working as a staff pharmacist, it may be difficult to leave the pharmacy for things like doctors appointments or childcare responsibilities. Most staff positions can be part- or full-time. My job is extremely flexible. Again, the downside is I need to support my own salary from grants. Most clinical pharmacists and researchers probably work more than 40 hours per week.
Q What changes
are occurring in this field?
A The PharmD degree used to be an optional, graduate degree. Now pharmacists are required to graduate with a PharmD degree as the standard degree. This means more time in school and, for those who want to specialize, more additional training beyond college. However, pharmacists are taking a more important role as part of the health care team. Pharmacists have the knowledge to recommend appropriate medications, not just count them and hand them out to people. This additional training may help a larger group of pharmacists provide more of this important care to patients.
Q How does
the economy impact the field of Pharmacy?
A The good news for pharmacists is that there are usually jobs! In fact, community pharmacists in rural areas often get paid a higher wage than pharmacists in urban settings because there is a greater need.
Q Do you
encounter any problems combining your job with your family life?
A It is very difficult balance to work full time and have a family. This is probably true in any career. Many pharmacists work part-time or on nights or weekends to accommodate work and family. Combining full-time work and family is possible, but requires organization!
Q What advice
would you give someone who is planning to enter the Pharmacy field?
A Don’t worry about deciding what type of pharmacist you want to be right away. Pharmacy schools give you opportunities to try out different settings through required rotations. It’s okay to change your mind. I was sure I never wanted to conduct research and now I am very happy with my career choice. Keep an open mind!