Hospital Pharmacist

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Hospital Pharmacist


If you know that you will be going to the hospital for care, ask your community pharmacist for a list of your current medications and take this list to your hospital pharmacist when you are admitted, so they can better care for you while in the hospital. Then, when you are ready to leave the hospital, ask your hospital pharmacist for a list of the medications that you started in hospital, or any changes made, including drugs added, drugs stopped, or doses or dosing times that have been changed, so that you can share this with your community pharmacist when you return home.

Hospital pharmacists advise patients and medical staff on the appropriate use of medicines. They also work with nursing and medical staff to prepare, mix and give out prescribed medicines. Simply put, a general pharmacist is an expert on drugs and medicines who supplies medicines for the treatment or prevention of disease, according to doctors' prescriptions. Hospital pharmacists work as a part of the hospital team, providing the proper medications and doses to each patient.

When pharmacists are starting out, they work in an apprentice role in different sections of the hospital rotation but are also given their own responsibilities, such as providing services to a small group of wards, in order to gradually learn to manage a section that interests them (for example, oncology or obstetrics).

Just as the pharmacy profession can be divided into different branches, so too is hospital pharmacy. For instance, although most medicinal products are now supplied by the pharmaceutical industry, a small range of speciality items are still produced either in batches or as preparations by production pharmacists in the hospital. Some pharmacists, called radiopharmacists, specialize in the preparation of radioactive medicines for the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Many pharmacists are drawn to hospital pharmacy because of the contact with patients and with other healthcare professionals when visiting the wards or serving outpatient clinics. The pharmacist can easily liase with doctors and nurses to encourage effective and economical drug treatment. They are the drug experts within the healthcare team, and the person most aware of the adverse effects of particular medicines or the combination of medicines. They also give advice on dosage, suggest the most appropriate form of medication, such as a syrup, tablet, injection, ointment, or inhaler, and point out reactions between medications and specific foods.

The pharmacist will also give an informed opinion as to whether or not to give a certain medicine to an individual patient, given the patient's overall medical condition. For example, diabetics and pregnant women cannot take certain medications. In order to help the pharmacist and all the other members of the hospital and community health care team, a library of drug information is maintained by most main hospital pharmacy departments.
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  • Pharmacy Technician (11-Month Diploma Program)



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  Interests and Skills  
Hospital pharmacists must have a genuine interest in people from all walks of life, and desire to help them get better through dispensing and education about certain medications. They need good communication skills, and tact and good judgment. They must be able to work under pressure with a high degree of integrity. They can work independently and with others and should have the desire to keep up to date with new ideas and advances in the pharmaceutical sciences.

Hospital pharmacists should enjoy performing tasks requiring precision and organized methods, while synthesizing medical information. They need to ask clients what types of medications they are on, so that new ones will not conflict. Hospital pharmacists should also be able to direct and instruct pharmacy staff.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Check prescriptions for proper dosages
  • Compound prescribed pharmaceutical products by calculating, measuring and mixing the quantities of drugs and other ingredients required and filling appropriate containers with correct quantities
  • Dispense prescribed pharmaceuticals to customers or to other health care professionals and advise them on the administration, uses and effects of the medication, drug incompatibilities and contra-indications
  • Monitor the effects of patient drug therapies and work closely with physicians and other health care professionals to ensure that patients receive safe and cost-effective drug therapy
  • Maintain medication profiles of patients including registry of poisons and narcotic and controlled drugs
  • Ensure proper storage of vaccines, serums, biologicals and other pharmaceutical products to prevent deterioration
  • Order and maintain stock of pharmaceutical supplies
  • Participate in basic research work for the development of new drugs
  • Formulate new drug products developed by medical researchers
  • Test new drug products for stability and to determine their absorption and elimination patterns
  • Co-ordinate clinical investigations of new drugs
  • Control the quality of drug products during production to ensure that they meet standards of potency, purity, uniformity, stability and safety
  • Develop informational materials concerning the uses and properties of particular drugs
  • Evaluate labelling, packaging and advertising of drug products
  • May specialize in fields such as oncology, cardiology, psychiatry, infectious disease or drug information
  • Hospital pharmacists either work alone or in tandem with another pharmacist or with a pharmacy technician. Hospital pharmacists often work rotating shifts, including evenings and holidays. Hours are fairly standard -- approximately 40 to 50 hours per week.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Hospital pharmacists work in hospitals and related institutions such as seniors' lodges and nursing homes. They work in the hospital inpatient pharmacy departments overseeing the dispensing and storage of all medicines given to all patients in the hospital. Some also work in sales positions representing pharmaceutical companies, providing drug detailing to physicians and pharmacists, or in industrial settings such as large pharmaceutical companies, or educational and research institutions.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Hospital pharmacists may take on the role of trainer by making presentations to colleagues or by teaching student nurses, pharmacy technicians, medical students or pharmacy graduates. Promotion often involves taking on the management of a particular area of the service or moving into an administrative position. Pharmacists may advance into the pharmaceutical world and work in the corporate side of pharmaceutical dispensing. Hospital pharmacists who want to work in the field of research can attend graduate programs to specialize in areas of drug research. They may also participate in pharmacy fellowships designed to prepare them for research jobs.

  Educational Paths  
The educational requirements for becoming a hospital pharmacist is a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy. It is composed of one year of undergraduate science studies followed by four years of pharmacy. While those in retail work must take a one-month internship, while those aiming for hospital work will need a longer residency. Space is limited in most pharmacy programs and acceptance into a program is determined mainly by marks from the student's first year of sciences. Licensure is required in all states for community and hospital pharmacists.

Some students also work towards a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm D). This requires about six years of post-secondary study. Entrants into the Doctor of Pharmacy program do not require a bachelors degree, since the program itself combines a bachelors and doctoral program, specializing in hospital pharmacy.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Programs Offered:
  • Pharmacy Technician (11-Month Diploma Program)

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