Examples of Career Paths for PharmDs
You will be intellectually stimulated and challenged by the multiple duties and responsibilities of a hospital pharmacist. This is especially true at large teaching hospitals and health care systems. The hospital pharmacist acts as a real time reviewer of physician prescribed medications. You will take into account the patient’s height, weight, allergies, diagnosis and other medications when reviewing an order and step in to suggest dosing alternatives if the situation warrants.
In a hospital, many patients receive fluids and drugs. Pharmacists with their PharmD supervise the preparation of these products, paying attention to the concentration of the medication in the fluids and making sure that medications that should not be mixed in the same bag or line are separated. These pharmacists are also responsible for the preparation of specialty fluids, like intravenous nutrition and cancer chemotherapy.
Hospital pharmacists are also found in intensive care settings, where the sickest patients receive time-critical care. As a member of a patient-centered healthcare team, you will go on rounds with patient-care teams, such as the nutrition, pain management and cancer teams. These pharmacists help choose, select dosages and monitor the drugs to be used on patients covered by those teams.
You will also be deeply involved in education, not only in the education of patients and their families, but also in giving lectures to physicians, nurses and other pharmacists about medicines and their appropriate use. Some hospital pharmacists choose to give lectures to the local schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy.
Research plays a major role in academic (and some non-academic) hospitals. Hospital pharmacists are involved in designing human studies and making sure they are carried out ethically in accordance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
As a community pharmacist, you will be a pillar of the community. Community pharmacists project a positive image and continue to be the face of medicine for millions of Americans. In fact, community pharmacists have been among the top three trusted professions since 1989 and in a recent poll 73% of Americans rank community pharmacists as being “very high” or “high” in terms of honesty and ethics. “Pharmacists prove their worth every day helping their patients choose and use the correct medications,” said Bruce Roberts, vice president and chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “... in particular, pharmacists have played a pivotal role helping seniors navigate the new Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.”
As a community pharmacist with a PharmD you not only interact with the public, but you have managerial and supportive roles with the health care community. Your public persona will involve educating patients in prescription drug and medical device use, offering guidelines to customers on the proper use of over-the-counter drugs, nutraceuticals and nutritional supplements, providing patients with immunizations and primary healthcare advice and support, and educating customers on health promotion, disease prevention and the proper use of medicines. The non-public responsibilities of a community pharmacist involve you in the evaluation of prescribed doses and possible drug interactions, in the preparation of medicines, ointments and tablets, in providing doctors and other health professionals with advice on drug selection and usage, and in managing technicians and sales people.
As a community pharmacist you will also have the choice to act as an entrepreneur and enjoy the personal and financial rewards associated with developing your own business enterprise. Alternatively, you may choose to work in a management capacity within a chain pharmacy. In chain practice, career paths usually begin at the store level with possible subsequent advancement to a position at the district, regional, or corporate level. Management development programs within many large pharmacies can lead a pharmacist towards careers in marketing operations, legal affairs, third party programs, computerization, and pharmacy affairs.
Do you want to be part of the exciting world of medicinal discovery, manufacture, and education? The pharmaceutical industry produces chemical and biological prescription and non-prescription drugs, and other health care products, including medical devices. As a PharmD in the pharmaceutical industry, you may look forward to a wide variety of career paths including research and development, quality control, marketing, sales, medical communications, regulatory affairs, drug safety and administration.
PharmDs with additional postgraduate training will often play a role in Pharmacology and Toxicology where they become experts in pre-clinical drug development. Alternatively, many PharmDs become part of clinical development teams, particularly if they have obtained an expertise in a particular therapeutic area via post-graduate residency training. PharmDs often rise to the position of Director, Clinical Development in a particular therapeutic space (anti-infectives, cardiovascular, etc.).
You may want to apply your technical background and analytical skills to quality control in a drug manufacturing setting. It is not uncommon to see PharmDs become experts in GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and serve as “Qualified Persons” or quality experts. The term “Qualified Person” is more of a designation by the European regulatory authorities, but applies to American manufacturing as well.
You may want to combine an interest in the law with your technical background in pharmacy by serving as regulatory affairs specialist. Regulatory Affairs specialists are intimately involved in the drug development process by creating a strategy that is consistent with the clinical development plan that, if successful, will lead to marketing authorization with the desired label claims. As such, they are a key part of the new drug development team.
You may want to combine an interest in sales, marketing, and administration with your technical background in pharmacy by serving as a medical service representative or medical science liaisons. These representatives call on a variety of health care professionals to explain the uses and merits of the products their firms produce. Experienced and successful medical service representatives with administrative abilities often rise to supervisory or executive posts in the pharmaceutical industry. PharmDs are also employed as sales representatives, supervisors, and administrators in wholesale drug firms.
Ambulatory Clinic Pharmacist
If you want to really get to know your patients and help them learn the complexities of their treatment, then practicing in a specialty clinic or in a home healthcare setting could be just for you.
If you are passionate about the treatment of a particular chronic disease, you may want to use your PharmD degree to run a specialty clinic. In addition to passion, you must be able to work seamlessly with other members of a patient’s healthcare team. Additionally, you will likely need additional specialized residency experience to fulfill the technical demands associated with such a clinic. The importance of such clinics cannot be overstated. For example, in the case of anticoagulation, it has been shown in a 2008 retrospective study that a "pharmacist-managed specialty anticoagulation clinic provides better overall patient care than the usual care provided at a physician's office." Many clinical scenarios and testing-intensive diseases (e.g. epilepsy, geriatrics, oncology, depression, HIV, Crohn's disease, growth hormone deficiency, Parkinson's disease, etc.) require detailed and specific patient instruction. Helping to attain the patient compliance necessary for positive outcomes is ideally suited for the training and temperament of a PharmD where patient-centered education is emphasized.
As a home healthcare pharmacist, you will administer and monitor the treatments of chronically ill patients for whom travel is difficult. These pharmacists have the opportunity to form special relationships with their patients and provide a level of care otherwise unavailable.
Public Health Pharmacist
Are you someone who likes the big picture? If so, you may want to consider the role of a PharmD in public health. The PharmD curriculum will make you uniquely qualified to have a role in policy formulation on issues as diverse as health literacy, immunizations, substance abuse, medication disposal and syringe disposal. This can translate to broad public health initiatives including the identification of community health problems and cooperating with existing community support services. This often involves the establishment of health priorities, policy development, and the management and assessment of those programs to which the PharmD brings unique and valuable insight.
The public health pharmacist will take an active role in organizing other pharmacists in activities like public education about prevalent diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. You will also have opportunities in the public and private sector to design outreach programs focused on wellness and disease prevention.
By improving the system by which healthcare is provided, the PharmD involved in public health initiatives will have a rewarding professional experience.
As an academic pharmacist, you will be helping to lay the groundwork for the next generation of PharmDs and pharmacists. You will engage the minds of your students in didactic learning, clinical experiences, and research settings. As an academic pharmacist, you will live a life of discovery and establish your own research program based on your interests to help expand the frontiers of pharmaceutical sciences and/or pharmacy practice. After some time, you may find that you are suited to the challenges of academic leadership and use your intellectual and organizational skills as well as your vision of a better future to organize students and/or faculty as part of a university’s or college’s administration.