Pharmacist in Training <Blog Series>
There are many varied paths to become a pharmacist. Historically, most pharmacists have had one of two degrees:
- Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm.)
- Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.).
Since the late 1990s, the Pharm.D. has been considered standard by most in order to practice in the United States. A Pharm.D. requires anywhere from six to eight years of education. This is intensive training that includes a deep background in science and chemistry and is designed to ensure the pharmacist becomes an expert on the constantly changing world of medications. Not only does the pharmacist need to understand how medications work, she also needs to be well-versed in the dangers and risks of those medications, what precautions to take to reduce risk, the varied diagnostic criteria for recommending medications, and how to monitor the patient’s safety while they are taking any kind of medication.
In addition to becoming experts in complex medications, pharmacists also need to learn how to effectively instruct patients on how to take their medication and how to help if there are any issues in taking the medication regularly. Often times, patients are quite frightened when they are being introduced to medications for the first time. They may be at the starting line of fighting off a serious illness. They may be concerned about side effects. They may be picking up medication for a child or another dependent and are taking on a caregiver role.
For this reason, and many others, many pharmacists arrive in this field from medical school or some other scientific training because they are excited by the opportunity to work more directly with people than other health care professions allow.
In addition to six to eight years of higher education training, some states (including the state of Washington) require 1,500 additional hours of Intern training. This important “on the job training” allows Interns (or student pharmacists) to exercise their knowledge out in the community where they are mentored and taught directly one-on-one from practicing pharmacists1.
Some pharmacists continue to pursue additional residency programs in clinical pharmacies. That’s right, just like resident programs most people might be familiar with for doctors thanks to shows like Grey’s Anatomy or ER or even Scrubs, pharmacists also have a competitive residency requirement for some fields. This is our time to put theoretical skills taught in school to practice. It also helps the pharmacist in training refine his or her abilities and identify potential areas of specialty.
Even after residency, training never stops.
Every year pharmacists participate in Continuing Education to maintain our licensure. This can include reading new publications on the changes in medicine or attending pharmacy conferences and taking part in lectures2. In addition to continuing education, there are some other types of board certifications that pharmacists can get (pain management, oncology, HIV… just to name a few).
The field of pharmacy is constantly changing. It is a dynamic healthcare practice that requires both a strong scientific foundation as well as exceptional interpersonal skills. If that sounds like the kind of combination for you, or someone you know, pharmacy might be the right career for you.