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Clinical Pharmacists Play Critical Roles in Direct Patient Care

Clinical Pharmacists Play Critical Roles in Direct Patient Care

Jennifer LeClaire / Monster Contributing Writer

With more pharmacists growing weary of day-in and day-out pill-dispensing duties, clinical pharmacy is attracting druggists who want to play a vital role on the healthcare team.

Unlike many other pharmacists, clinical pharmacists are directly involved in patient care. The average hospital-based clinical pharmacist makes rounds with doctors, suggests drug therapies and monitors patient responses. In ambulatory care clinics, clinical pharmacists often determine formularies, and in industrial settings, they may conduct cost-benefit analyses on medications or educate insurance companies about new drugs.

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Whatever the venue, more doors are opening for clinical pharmacists as doctors and nurses increasingly rely on druggists to help manage growing patient loads and insurance companies look to them to scrutinize drug expenses. The hours may be less predictable than in the retail environment, but the pay is comparable and the satisfaction levels are higher for pharmacists who enjoy a challenge.

“Opportunities are growing for clinical pharmacists,” says Dr. Joe Calomo, assistant dean of experiential education and professional affairs at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston. “More hospital administrators are beginning to see the value of having a clinical pharmacist on staff, because it can save costs and improve patient outcomes.”

Getting into the Field

While clinical pharmacists require no special licensing or education beyond the PharmD degree, landing a clinical pharmacy position typically means completing a one-year residency. Experts say hospitals prefer to hire seasoned pharmacists for clinical positions because of the work’s critical nature.

“You need at least two years of experience on the job to be a qualified clinical pharmacist,” says Karol Matsune, president of the Northern California College of Clinical Pharmacy. “Doing this job without experience is dangerous to the patients.”

That’s because hospital patients are generally more ill — sometimes even critically so — and the drugs more potent. Clinical pharmacists prescribe higher doses of medication, often intravenously, because they are able to monitor patient outcomes closely.

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