To most people, a pharmacist is a specific role with specific skills and responsibilities – including around the safe and legal dispensation of medication, which is an onerous task. This is definitely true: pharmacists are responsible this, and are often on the front line against problems caused by the wrong use of medication.
However, what many people don’t realize is that pharmacists play an important role in their communities, and are responsible for a wide range of health and well being tasks. As the first and often most accessible point of contact for many people when it comes to their healthcare needs, pharmacists are integral in the promotion of health and well being in their communities. Here are some of the ways that this takes place.
Advice and pointers
Many people think that clinicians are the only source of healthcare advice and support available – and, given the esteem in which they’re rightly held, it’s easy to see why. However, it’s certainly not the case, and other professionals such as pharmacists play a vital role. This is the sort of varied role that an online pharmacy program from an institution such as the University of Findlay is strong at preparing people for – and something that any future potential applicant should bear in mind. A program such as this can fully prepare you for licensure as an accomplished pharmacist who can improve the quality of life for the patients with whom you will be dealing.
This is especially true in many healthcare systems, including that in the US, where access to clinicians is often restricted in one way or another. This restriction could be financial in nature, if the person has to pay in order to see their primary healthcare professional, or it could simply be time-based in the event that there aren’t enough appointments available to meet the demand. A pharmacist is often simply available for dropping in, because they’re often based in the places that people spend a lot of time (such as supermarkets or on Main Street) – and usually, no appointment is necessary.
In these contexts, pharmacists can provide all kinds of support – especially when it comes to onward signposting. A pharmacist is trained to be able to make an assessment and distinguish between an urgent case requiring extra care and a health issue that can be treated at home. This has a positive knock-on effect for the overall health system, as it reduces the burden of people arriving at emergency rooms.
In the event that it is actually necessary to go to the emergency room, a pharmacist can often confirm this there and then, so that you can go along and get the urgent treatment you need. In the event that it’s not a serious enough case for immediate referral to another healthcare professional, meanwhile, the pharmacist can often provide medication that can either target or at least manage the symptoms. Because they have medical knowledge and a lot of training, they are able to provide medication that goes above what is available over the counter – often without a different clinician having to be involved.
In this light, then, pharmacists can be seen as community healthcare practitioners – working with healthcare system users where they are to get them what they need and screening them for potential onward referral.
A point of contact
For many people, their pharmacist is the most accessible healthcare professional they know. It’s easy to see why this is the case: while there are, of course, plenty of pharmacists who work in laboratories testing the effectiveness of drugs, or in hospitals or clinics in a ‘behind the scenes’ role with clinicians taking the lead, it’s also the case that a significant number of pharmacists work in the community rather than in such a setting.
It’s also worth remembering that pharmacists are highly trained and well-qualified professionals who have to train and learn in depth about all aspects of pharmaceutical care – including not just the pharmacology principles of how certain chemicals in certain drugs impact people, but also the pharmaceutics of the design and delivery process. Yet sometimes, patients may experience some level of reluctance when it comes to talking to their pharmacist, because there are some misconceptions about the qualifications required by such professionals. In truth, pharmacists are an amazing resource with lots of knowledge, and, combined with their relatively high accessibility levels, can have a profound impact on a patient or service user’s health.
Stocking and advertising
Walk past a drugstore and you’re likely to see a certain amount of advertising or promotional materials explaining to you how you can live a healthier lifestyle. Youmight, for example, see a signin the window of your local pharmacy encouraging you to stop smoking. As pharmacies are often located in a high footfall area, this is helpful for achieving public health outcomes. Or there may be some advertisements for items, such as vitamins, that can improve your general health.
Because pharmacists are so often located in their communities rather than in healthcare settings such ashospitals or clinics, it’s possible for them to take on more of the burden of this community healthcare messaging. While this kind of messaging is also available in clinical settings such as hospitals, it’s more plentiful and visible in the community.
Ultimately, pharmacists have an important role to play in ensuring the health and well being of the communities they serve. Whether it’s the way that they can act as a first port of call in the event of any health problems or the role they play in encouraging better and more positive public health outcomes, there’s certainly plenty for a pharmacist to do when it comes to community work. For those who are considering a sideways move into this career, the community aspect of the role is certainly something to add to the appeal.