CHOOSING A CAREER / NOV. 07, 2014
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Top 10 Skills Needed for a Job as a Pharmacist

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global pharmaceutical industry is currently worth US$300 billion. That’s expected to increase to US$400 billion in just a few years. That means that the global need for pharmacists will keep going up. What will it take for those pharmacists to be successful? Keep reading to learn about the top 10 skills today’s pharmacists need (and to find out if you have what it takes!).

#1 Accuracy

When it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, accuracy is literally a matter of life and death. Sure, nobody’s perfect. But if you consider a 1 percent error rate – which sounds pretty good – a pharmacy that dispenses 500 prescriptions a day would get five of them wrong – possibly with devastating consequences. Whether it’s reading the doctor’s abysmal handwriting, entering the information into the computer system, or measuring ingredients correctly, accuracy is essential.

#2 Ability to question the experts

Sometimes doctors forget to check for drug interactions. Sometimes the nurses who submit electronic prescriptions make typos. Pharmacists are like proofreaders for news outlets. If something doesn’t make sense, they have to have the confidence to stop and ask questions.

#3 Math and science skills

It may sound obvious, but people often underestimate how much pharmacists use their math and science skills. From something as simple as calculating how many pills a patient needs if he takes the medication three times a day to calculating dosages, math skills are essential. Pharmacists also have to understand basic chemistry and biology, and they need to be able to easily assimilate new information when it becomes available.

#4 People skills

Pharmacists often get caught between doctors who don’t like to be questioned and patients who are upset that their prescriptions area being delayed. They have to be able to soothe bruised egos and hurt feelings to make the process go as smoothly as possible for everybody involved.

#5 Communication skills

One of the most challenging parts of a pharmacist’s job is explaining medications, dosages, side effects, etc., to patients. Elderly patients, in particular, may not always understand how and when to take their medicine. Pharmacists have to be able explain things clearly and to then verify the patient’s understanding.

#6 Advocacy skills

All too often, pharmacists find themselves battling insurance companies to get them to cover the medicine the patient needs. Pharmacists need to be able to advocate for their patients when there are obstacles in filling a prescription rather than just sending the patient away empty-handed.

#7 Management skills

Depending on their place of employment, pharmacists may supervise aides or technicians, order medications and monitor inventory, keep accurate records, manage budgets, etc.

#8 Multitasking

Not only do pharmacists perform tasks that have life-or-death ramifications, they often have to do it at the same time they’re answering the phone, greeting a patient at the counter, ringing up another patient’s medications, etc. Pharmacists have to be able to multitask, while still doing each with 100 percent accuracy.

#9 Problem-solving/handling stressful situations

Many pharmacists at one time or another encounter a patient who is trying to get a restricted substance without a prescription, on an expired prescription, or too early, etc. Some patients, especially those with dependencies, can become belligerent. Pharmacists have to be able to resolve these situations diplomatically and without feeling intimidated.

#10 Ability to prioritize

Pharmacists have to be able to assess situations and adjust on the fly. For instance, whose prescription do you fill first – the person who’s been waiting for 10 minutes, or the terrified mom who just came in with a sick newborn and two crying toddlers? Pharmacists must be able to balance empathy with fairness when prioritizing the many tasks they’re juggling.

Pharmacists have a fast-paced, highly technical job that can be very demanding, and there’s absolutely no room for error. But it can be highly-rewarding for people who have the skills and abilities listed above as well as a genuine drive to help people get well and lead healthy lives.

 

Image: iStock

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