Clinical pharmacists were once confined to traditional healthcare facilities like hospitals, clinics, and educational centers. But today, their roles and workplaces are increasing by the day as healthcare is becoming increasingly accessible to the public. New government regulations, increasing demand, and recent advancements in medicine have all contributed to this rising trend.
You can find a clinical pharmacist in any healthcare setting today, from traditional healthcare facilities to palliative centers, home care settings, alternative care sites, etc. They work with multidisciplinary teams of healthcare professionals to ensure the optimal use of medication and the best health and economic outcomes for patients.
They also streamline workflow, preventing inefficiencies and misrepresentations that could detract from a patient’s therapeutic experience.
The following sections will take a closer look at the role of clinical pharmacists in the modern healthcare system, the skills they bring to the table, and a day in the life of a clinical pharmacist.
What do clinical pharmacists do?
According to the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP), clinical pharmacy is “an area of pharmacy concerned with the science and practice of rational medication use.” The ACCP definition also highlights other supplementary roles of a clinical pharmacist besides administering drugs, from disease prevention to promoting health and wellness and managing economic outcomes for patients and healthcare facilities.
Their contributions to a healthcare team can be broad or very specific, but their primary role is usually providing scientifically-sound recommendations for drug use. They are the experts on a medical team with extensive knowledge of medications and how various factors influence a patient’s treatment outcomes. Rather than just sitting behind a counter to dole out drugs and answer queries (usually the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of a clinical pharmacist), clinical pharmacists are usually up and about, contributing to various aspects of a patient’s treatment plans.
The daily life of a clinical pharmacist usually revolves around assessing a patient’s health status, prescribing medications, monitoring intake, and helping patients make more health-conscious decisions.
A day in the life of a clinical pharmacist
Most of what a clinical pharmacist does revolves around medication management. But they are also involved in every stage of patient care. They examine new patients, identify the right medications for their problems, implement and monitor comprehensive care plans, track treatment progress, and monitor for issues with medications such as overdosing, adverse reactions, addiction and withdrawal problems, etc.
They are also involved in documentation and patient data management.
All of this requires working with other healthcare experts in various capacities. Clinical pharmacists can collaborate, offer assistance, or directly supervise other members of a medical team.
When they are not working directly on a patient’s treatment plan, clinical pharmacists are engaged in various activities aimed at enhancing healthcare delivery in a facility. They can explore ways to optimize current medication therapies and recommend new and more effective solutions. They also perform quality checks on drug inventories.
Another key element in a clinical pharmacist’s daily life is data. They work with many different types of data and manage many different types of databases, from patient medical records to drug inventories, data from clinical trials, and even financial data.
Much of this data is gathered during the drug discovery process. Check out the infographic below to see the step by step journey of how medicine is made, and how that process is being improved all the time with new innovations.
Infographic provided by OmniAb, an antibody discovery platform research organization
What skills do clinical pharmacists bring to the table?
To succeed as a clinical pharmacist, you need more than just medical expertise. The role of a clinical pharmacist has significantly evolved over the past few decades and now encompasses a wide range of core skills.
A good place to start is completing a flexible yet comprehensive pharmacy degree online from the University of Findlay. This program combines online coursework, immersive on-site engagement, and experiential learning to set you on a path to becoming an accomplished clinical pharmacist.
It covers all the concepts and principles of pharmacy and pharmaceutics. It also exposes students to extensive practical experience, where they can cultivate critical skills such as therapeutic monitoring techniques, effective communication of drug information, and soft skills for patient counseling and education.
Generally speaking, here are the core skills that have come to be expected of a well-trained modern clinical pharmacist:
- A keen eye for details.
- Strong interpersonal skills.
- Perpetual curiosity and attention to trends and developments in the space.
- The ability to multitask effectively.
- Critical thinking and analytical skills.
- Management and organizing skills.
- Familiarity with modern documentation and file-sharing tools.
- Financial literacy.
- Teaching and counseling skills.
Why is the role of clinical pharmacists indispensable to healthcare delivery?
Proper healthcare delivery is incomplete without the contributions of clinical pharmacists. The most salient benefits that they bring to healthcare delivery include the following:
- Preventing adverse events from medication management
Pharmacists help prevent issues arising from medication errors, such as adverse side effects, medical complications, withdrawal symptoms, etc. In a study involving 800 heart failure or hypertension patients, patients who had clinical pharmacists on their care team were 34% less likely to suffer adverse drug reactions. Another similar study of adult care teams shows that the role of clinical pharmacists reduces preventable adverse drug events by 78%.
- Improving medication compliance
Clinical pharmacists also improve medical outcomes for patients by making it easier for them to take their drugs on time. A clinical pharmacist’s role includes that of an educator who interacts with patients and others on the medical team to foster compliance with requirements for proper medication.
- Monitoring treatment endpoints
To ensure the effectiveness of drug use and compliance with medication requirements, clinical pharmacists need to keep close tabs on treatment outcomes. They can tell when all is going according to plan if treatment endpoints (pain relief, stabilized blood pressure, hormone control, etc.) pan out as planned.
- Supplementing the efforts of other healthcare experts on the team
A clinical pharmacist helps nurses, physicians, and others on the medical team to dispense their duties more effectively. Besides their expertise in medication management, they also possess interpersonal skills, organizing skills, and other management skills that encourage effective collaboration.
The role of a clinical pharmacist in healthcare delivery is constantly evolving and growing more intricate by the day. A career in clinical pharmacy opens you to immense opportunities for working with multidisciplinary health teams in various healthcare settings.
As a clinical pharmacist, your contributions are instrumental to patients’ outcomes in many ways. You can help foster cohesion, communication, and collaboration in medical teams, devise and implement successful treatment plans, and increase the chances of positive medical outcomes and patient satisfaction.