By Michelle Hinojos, Pharm.D.
What is a pharmacist?
A pharmacist is an individual licensed to prepare, compound, and dispense drugs/medications upon written or electronic order (prescription) from a licensed practitioner such as a physician, dentist, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant. A pharmacist is a health care professional who consults with and often gives advice to the licensed practitioner concerning drugs/medications.
What do pharmacists do?
A pharmacist’s primary responsibility is to make sure patients receive safe and appropriate medication therapy. Pharmacists complete university-level education to understand everything about drugs from uses to side effects to how they react when combined with other drugs. Pharmacists interpret and share this knowledge with patients, physicians, nurses, and other health care providers.
When an order for a prescription comes through, they review the order to check for inconsistencies before compounding, packaging and labeling it.
What do you think are misconceptions about what pharmacists do?
Pharmacists only count pills
Many folks think pharmacists only count and dispense medications. In reality, we double-check the dose, drug, route, frequency, interactions with other medications, etc. before giving out a medication.
There is a considerable amount of regulation that goes into filling your prescription. In a community or retail pharmacy, when a patient hands us a prescription, we have to enter it into our software system. This system tracks the availability of the medication, the last time the patient had the prescription filled, if the patient is allergic to the medication and if the dosing is appropriate. From there, it goes through the patient’s insurance.
If all of these steps are passed, we then check to see if that medication would react with the patient’s other medications. If no problems are detected, only then does the prescription get filled. The prescription goes through one last step of verification through the software before it reaches the patient.
There isn’t job diversity
Pharmacists attend traumas, code blues, premature births and contribute to saving lives. As members of the health care team, we use evidence-based medicine to help providers choose the best drug for their patients. We advocate for our patients’ best interests and take that message to our nation’s legislators. We are involved in research, drug development and clinical trials for new medications. The possibilities are endless.
How important is a pharmacist’s interaction with a patient?
The pharmacy profession has evolved from its traditional drug-focused foundation to a patient-focused foundation. We are now part of the larger health care team working to provide better health care and help patients cope with a complicated health care system. As a result, pharmacy schools have created programs that incorporate the changing role of the pharmacist.
Medications are known to improve the quality of people’s lives, but they can also pose serious risks. Pharmacists, regardless of setting, are a member of your health care team and are trained to help you get the benefits of medicine while reducing drug-related problems and risks as much as possible.
What’s more, we see patients with similar conditions using different medications every single day. We know which side effects could mean serious trouble.
By partnering with a local pharmacist whom you trust, just as you would a doctor or advanced practice provider, you can build a trusted long-term relationship.
What do you love about being a pharmacist?
What I love about being a pharmacist is that I am fortunate enough to work with a knowledgeable team at TCHC, and I continue to learn something new each and every day. Pharmacists are a trusted link between patients and their providers. This position gives us a unique perspective on many facets of health care.
I deeply enjoy and appreciate being a medication information resource for nurses, patients and providers in order to positively impact patient care. I am blessed to work in a rural community hospital that continually challenges me to stay up to date on the latest clinical practice guidelines in a variety of areas of health care such as emergency medicine, inpatient care, disease state management, ICU, OB and chemotherapy, just to name a few.
Pharmacy Fun Facts
- Coca-Cola was invented by pharmacist John Pemberton. Pepsi and Dr. Pepper were also invented by pharmacists.
- The pharmacy profession can be traced back to at least 4000 B.C. The Sumerian population living in modern-day Iraq wrote the earliest surviving prescriptions from at least 2700 B.C.
- Benjamin Franklin is considered one of the founding fathers of pharmacy by playing a part in establishing one of the first public hospitals and hospital pharmacies in the U.S.
- It typically takes 6-8 years of schooling to obtain a doctorate degree in pharmacy. Pharmacists can also spend an extra 1-2 years in residency or fellowship training in specialty areas such as critical care, emergency medicine, pediatric, geriatric or oncology.
- Aside from retail or hospital settings, pharmacists can also work in areas such as academia, public health, government, pharmaceutical research, informatics and managed care.
About the Author: Michelle Hinojos was born and raised in Wadena. She graduated in 2002 with her Doctor of Pharmacy from NDSU in Fargo and has been employed as a pharmacist at TCHC since July of 2002. She and her husband, Vince, have three children – Maddy, 21; Grace, 18; and Lucas, 16. Vince is a system administrator at Alomere Health in Alexandria. Maddy will graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the University of MN – Twin Cities in May of 2019 and plans to attend medical school starting that fall. Lucas and Grace attend WDC High School, with Grace set to graduate in May.