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Did you know...what your community pharmacist can do for you? Pharmacy 101

A pharmacist is trained to help you take your medicines in a safe way and get the most benefit from them. It's her or his job to review your prescription and make sure you get exactly the medication that your healthcare provider asked for. They also give you and other health care providers (like your doctor and nurse practitioner) information on medications and over-the-counter drugs. Your pharmacist can help you understand all of your medications.

What kind of training does a pharmacist get?

A pharmacist must complete a pharmacy program leading to a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D) from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). According to New York State laws before a person can be a licensed pharmacist he or she needs pass all three parts of the pharmacist licensing exam series (Part I, Part II, and Part III). Only pharmacists who pass all three exams are able to practice pharmacy in New York State. Part I is the North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam (NAPLEX). This exam tests pharmacists on their knowledge of medicines and pharmacy-related information. Part II is the Multi-State Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) which tests on New York State and Federal pharmacy laws. Part III is the written and practical exam also known as the Compounding exam. In addition to these exams, a pharmacist in New York State practices in a pharmacy for a certain number of hours under the direct supervision of a pharmacist.

What do pharmacists do?

Pharmacists give out or "dispense" medications based on prescriptions written by health care professionals like licensed doctors, registered nurse practitioners, registered certified physician assistants, and dentists. They also counsel patients on how to take their prescription or over-the-counter medications the right way and discuss choosing the right drug with doctors and other health care providers to find the best treatment for a patient. Pharmacists can help patients on a good diet, exercise, and other therapeutic lifestyle changes. Also, they work with insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare to make sure that your medications are properly paid for. As of December of 2008, a new law in New York State allows pharmacists to give immunization [healthopedia] shots if they complete a certification program. Pharmacists who are certified can provide flu shots to anyone over age 18.

What is a pharmacist not allowed to do?

A pharmacist can not write a prescription for a medication in New York State. In some states like Florida, some pharmacists can write prescriptions for certain medication. Pharmacists are experts in medications and can provide your health care provider and you all the information needed on medications to improve your health.

How can a pharmacist protect you?

One of the most important things a pharmacist does is to make sure that you take your medication the right way. They also check to see if your medications react badly with one another which may lead to a drug-drug interaction. They let you know about side effects and ways to deal with these effects. Your pharmacist must also make sure that you are not allergic to any medications that are prescribed for you. It is your pharmacist's job to counsel you on your medication and health and also to make sure that healthcare providers who prescribe your drugs know about the latest drug information.

Where does a pharmacist work?

They work in many places such as clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and community pharmacies. The links below will help you understand the role of a pharmacist better and give you more information on a career in pharmacy:

Did you know? is a series of health articles written by HHPC and approved by our Health Advisory Board.

1 Comment

This article mentions that pharmacists can also give immunization shots. However, many people are not aware of this and involving pharmacists in immunizations is a useful public health initiative because pharmacists in all settings routinely have access to patients in need of vaccinations. After all they are the most accessible health care professionals. Pharmacists can act as advocates (motivating people to be immunized), as facilitators (hosting others who immunize) or as immunizers. They can easily identify specific people who need vaccines on the basis of age and medical histories, which allow them to make significant contributions to improving immunization rates in their communities.

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