October is American Pharmacists Month and we are excited to present to you a series of videos throughout the month by our very own, Bradlee Rea, PharmD, PGY-2 Pharmacy Resident in Pain and Palliative Care! Our next video in the series, Pharmacist Myths, will help expand your understanding of the field and unveil upcoming news in pharmacy.
Bradlee Rea, PharmD, PGY-2 Pharmacy Resident in Pain and Palliative Care
Hospice of Southern Illinois
Pharmacy is a field of medicine that is continually growing into new areas. Their new roles expand past the traditional roles of counting pills behind a counter. Now-a-days, even pharmacists who do work in chain or community pharmacies rarely count pills. Oftentimes it is the job of the technician to measure the appropriate amount of medication whether it is measuring a liquid or counting the accurate number of pills. It is then the pharmacist’s job to verify the right medication and count is in each prescription bottle. There are exceptions to these rules depending on the pharmacy site, usually having to do with controlled substances. Since these medications are much more regulated by the FDA and DEA, pharmacists may be the individual counting and verifying these particular instances.
Outside of the community/chain pharmacy world, pharmacists have begun to find new niches for their careers. There are so many areas where pharmacists work that the community just does not have the opportunity to see. For example, there are pharmacists who work with radioactive materials in order to perform diagnostic scanning in the hospital (if you ever had intravenous dye (contrast dye) put into your body then you know an example). These medications are prepared by a pharmacist to ensure appropriate dosage of medication and radiation. There are also pharmacists who work much like a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner under the supervision of a medical doctor. These pharmacists are able to increase or decrease medication doses, start new medications, or stop existing prescriptions.
Delving deeper into pharmacists authority, there are states who are allowing pharmacists to prescribe certain medications without a medical doctor. For example, most states now allow pharmacists to give immunizations to patients within a certain age range. Also, naloxone, a life-saving medication in opioid overdose, can be prescribed by pharmacists in ~ 14 states at the moment.
There are dozens of areas of medicine where pharmacists are able to be employed. These jobs range from the above listed occupations, to working in a pharmaceutical company, to being a veterinary pharmacist. As time passes and the overall health burden of our country increases, the roles and responsibilities of mid-level practitioners will increase, including pharmacists. Currently there are many areas in the United States that are lacking the appropriate amount of primary care physicians. While the government is trying to help solve the problem by incentivizing physicians to go into that field, the other way they are improving access to care is by expanding the roles of other health care workers.