Featured, Professional Advice / Opinions:

Adapting to the Changing Roles in Pharmacy

By: Kate Croegaert, University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, Pharm.D. Candidate c/o 2013

Kate Croegaert is a PharmD Candidate (Class of 2013) and the current President of the Rho Chi Delta Chapter at the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy.   She believes in the importance of advancing the profession of pharmacy and promoting innovative practices within the profession.  We would like to thank Associate Dean, Dr. Bernard Sorofman, for connecting us to Mrs. Croegaert.

The role of the pharmacist is undergoing significant changes; the focus of pharmacy practice is shifting from dispensing medication to providing patient-centered care.  In the past, the volume of prescriptions filled has driven profits in pharmacy.  This focus will evolve into a quality driven system, with incentives for both doctors and pharmacists determined by the caliber of care that they provide to patients.  As the role of the pharmacist evolves, it is imperative for future practitioners to embrace these new aspects of the profession and to promote their progression.

Along with a more value-based ideology, pharmacists will increase their integration with the healthcare team.  Past methods of practice have segregated pharmacists from other healthcare practitioners.  This future care model emphasizes multidisciplinary teamwork, where pharmacists will work with others to help provide the best possible patient care.  This type of partnership will not only improve patient outcomes, but will also help to prevent medication errors and medication side effects, as well as cut down on healthcare costs.  Pharmacists will play vital roles in these synergistic relationships because of the profound therapeutic knowledge they can offer to promote patient care and safety.  New insurance models will also help to foster the development of a collaborative environment.

Pharmacists must be devoted to continuous learning in order to excel in these current and future roles.  The pharmaceutical field is ever changing; there are constantly new drug therapies and discoveries.  Only a small portion of the knowledge that we obtain comes from our pharmacy education.  The majority of our pharmaceutical knowledge comes from on-the-job training and educational experiences, such as residency programs and mentorship opportunities.  As future and current healthcare practitioners, we have the responsibility to remain up-to-date with the most current clinical guidelines and innovations.

So, how can a student pharmacist be successful in these future roles and show commitment to life-long learning?  Well, assimilating into these new duties requires pharmacists to prove that they are medication therapy experts.  One can build a strong knowledge base and develop his or herself professionally by continuing education opportunities, involvement in professional organizations, residency experiences, and mentorship.  These types of professional development and life-long learning display commitment to the profession; they can help build trusting relationships with other practitioners.

An optimal opportunity for pharmacy students to prepare themselves for future practice is to complete a residency program.  Completion of a pharmacy practice residency provides invaluable learning opportunities.  Residency programs allow the PharmD graduate to expand on clinical knowledge and learn to pharmacy practice in a clinical setting.  A general postgraduate year one (PGY-1) residency provides the opportunity to experience multiple types of pharmacy practice.  This helps the pharmacy resident develop passion for specific areas of pharmacy.  Not only does a residency program permit students to sharpen pharmaceutical care skills, but it also opens opportunities in advanced practice settings.  Completion of a PGY-1 residency can lead to the opportunity to complete a PGY-2 specialty residency.  Specialty residencies in areas such as oncology, pediatrics, or pharmacy management (among many others) allow pharmacists to focus on preferred areas.  The detailed skills acquired in these residencies prepare pharmacists to provide better care to patients and more effectively collaborate with other medical professionals within the field.

Involvement in professional or state pharmacy organizations is another way to be on the forefront of professional changes.  Being a member of these pharmacy organizations provides networking opportunities with colleagues and offers pharmacists a voice in matters that affect their profession.  In addition to providing pharmacists with professional opportunities, these organizations allow pharmacists to utilize their knowledge and experiences to advance their profession.

Mentorship and continuing education opportunities prepare pharmacists for future career roles.  Teamwork with other healthcare practitioners not only promotes better patient care, but also allows providers to learn from one another.  Working with another pharmacy or medical expert requires a thorough understanding of different topics, which challenges pharmacists to be “on top of their game.”  This type of mentorship also provides new outlooks on topics or patient care strategies that were unrealized when working alone.

There is no doubt the pharmacy profession is evolving into a more patient-centered practice.  There will be greater focus on the value and quality of care, and partnerships with other healthcare practitioners will be vital.  Acknowledging these changes and adjusting to new roles will allow for greater professional success and better patient care.  Pharmacists have the exciting opportunity to prepare for these changing roles through completion of a residency program, involvement in professional organizations, and collaboration and mentorship with other healthcare providers.  These professional development opportunities come with the responsibility to improve one’s skills through life-long learning.

Published by Rho Chi Post
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