October is American Pharmacists Month

Pharmacists are a key link in the healthcare delivery chain, and symplr celebrates their considerable contributions! These ubiquitous healthcare professionals have always been in high-profile places like your local drugstore, in pharmaceutical companies, in government agencies, and in hospitals as part of multidisciplinary care teams.

But amid health system consolidations and the expanding number of places where patients receive healthcare and services, pharmacists now help to foster drug safety and quality—or advise on pharmaceutical-related topics:

symplr's own Iqbal Atcha, RPh, MBA, SPHR, RACR, a senior consultant for healthcare talent acquisition, said "Pharmacists are highly-valued for their role in the delivery of healthcare. But in addition to being clinical experts, they're also healthcare strategists and organizational leaders who are constantly exploring new ways to improve clinical outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and champion patient care. As a pharmacist myself, I’m very proud to see how far the profession has come and how much further it will go.”  

Pharmacists do more than prepare and dispense medications and monitor drug therapies for the 131 million U.S. adults who rely on them. According to the American Pharmacists Association, based on their practice and work environment pharmacists also regularly: 

  • Assist with developing and improving new medications
  • Counsel patients/consumers about their prescriptions
  • Review prescriptions for interactions with other drugs and for patient allergies 
  • Advise patients on over-the-counter medications
  • Conduct health screenings
  • Administer immunizations
  • Perform utilization management and case management reviews
  • Act as a liaison to physicians and other healthcare professionals
  • Process insurance claims and other paperwork to ensure payment from insurance providers

“Pharmacists are integral to our patient care teams. They’re embedded in clinical workflows—protecting patients from medication harm, providing clinical insight around the medical management of our patients’ care, and driving better clinical and operational outcomes at our health systems. They...deliver evidence-based recommendations and facilitate care through independent practice in the fields of genetics, cancer care, diabetes, hypertension, and others.

The impact of our pharmacy team is underestimated. I celebrate their work ethic, engagement, and teamwork. Thank you for your hard work!”
Angel Mena, MD, CMO of symplr Clinical Communications


What education and training do pharmacists have?

Approximately 53% of U.S.-licensed pharmacists are doctors of pharmacy, meaning they receive as much classroom clinical instruction as medical doctors. Becoming a pharmacist requires successful completion of the following steps:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field or complete at least two years of undergraduate pre-pharmacy preparatory classes (and maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 or higher)
  2. Take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT), which assesses verbal ability, chemistry, biology, reading comprehension, quantitative ability, and writing skills
  3. Earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (PharmD) from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), which takes three to four years to complete.
  4. Pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or an exam specific to the state in which they will work.

Further, each state has specific requirements for the continuing education that pharmacists must complete to maintain licensure/certification. 

Are pharmacists credentialed and privileged?

Depending on the location in which a pharmacist works and the level of service they provide, a pharmacist may be credentialed and privileged, often falling into the category of licensed independent practitioner (LIP). They may also be considered an “other licensed or certified healthcare practitioner” (OLCP)—a clinical staff member who’s licensed, registered, or certified but not permitted by law to provide care and services without supervision. Laws surrounding licensure/certification and scope of practice vary by state.  

If pharmacists’ scopes of practice grow in parallel with the number of new physical and virtual sites where they work, in the coming years, pharmacists could see more attention from healthcare regulators and accreditors. This is based on the history and experiences of other non-physician practitioners (e.g., nurse practitioners, physician assistants).

What’s the future of the pharmacy field?

Precision medicine, population health, promoting preventive care over treatment, supporting care that increasingly takes place in individuals’ homes—these are areas where, according to Deloitte, pharmacists will increasingly participate. Ultimately, the profession could become less product-focused and more involved in clinical services.  

So this month—as you’re getting your flu shot, picking up a prescription, on a Zoom call with or passing your pharmacist colleague in the hallway—thank them, support them, and endorse them with a kind word, social post, or website review.

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