Sign with the word pharmacy in green with a cross and an arrow

Most of us understand that pharmacists are in charge of acquiring and dispensing medicines. But the role of a pharmacist is much more significant in your healthcare than you probably realize. They do much more than count pills and refill prescriptions. Pharmacists are also a vital part of the healthcare system and serve as valuable resources for your health.

What is the role of a Community Pharmacy/Pharmacist

Chances are, you’ve interacted with a community pharmacist. You may have encountered them at your drugstore or health center. A community pharmacist interacts with the people in the community daily.  The role of a pharmacist also includes fostering a relationship with you. A community pharmacist can positively impact your health.

The tasks of a community pharmacist are:

  • Works within the community setting, at community centers, drugstore pharmacies, or private community pharmacies
  • Advises and informs clients directly – answering your questions and counseling on how to take medicines properly
  • Manages the safe storage and monitoring of medication in a pharmacy 
  • Works with your doctor and other prescribers to make sure you obtain the right medicines for you
  • Monitors and reports on drug safety
  • Dispenses medicines to clients

Why are Community Pharmacists so Important to Your Healthcare?

According to a survey by Consumer Reports, the average amount of medications prescribed per person in the U.S. is four prescriptions. About 55 percent of the U.S. population takes 1 or more prescription medicines, many of them requiring refills. Given these statistics, many of us see our community pharmacists more often than our doctors. Your pharmacist delivers the drug treatments that affect your well-being, making pharmacists a vital part of your healthcare. Yet, most of us don’t utilize our community pharmacists to the full extent.

Keeps a record of your medicines

Your community pharmacist keeps a record of the prescriptions you fill provides you with an understanding of your past health history and your current status. In addition, they’re aware of your diagnosis and drug treatment, and this knowledge lets them review your medications for potential drug reactions and helps manage side effects. 

Speaks to your doctor on your behalf

Your community pharmacist may also speak with your doctor directly to ask for clarification or make inquiries, which makes them an excellent advocate when it comes to your health. What’s more, pharmacists have a more comprehensive overview of your medication regimen because more than one physician may be prescribing your medications.

In addition, pharmacists are in a position to help your doctor better understand medications and their potential side effects, keeping you safe. They’re also integral to keeping you healthy. Community pharmacists, for example, also dispense and administer vaccinations, while some even do wellness checks!

Protip: When visiting your pharmacists, don’t just drop off your prescriptions. Ask your pharmacists about any over-the-counter medications they might recommend to go along with your prescription. Recommendations from a pharmacist shouldn’t replace the advice from your doctor, but they may have additional information suitable for your condition.

What are a Pharmacist’s Roles & Responsibilities?

The role of a community pharmacist in the health care team requires in-depth knowledge about medications, supplements, and food interactions. Rather than simply dispensing medication, pharmacists serve as a final check for the appropriateness of any medicines prescribed for you through their pharmacy. Pharmacists verify the types of medicines, the dosages, and they also do a necessary check for allergies.

Answer your questions

The role of a pharmacist in community health care and education extends to you. For example, if you have questions about your medications, your community pharmacist is the ideal healthcare provider to answer your question. In addition, they educate clients on the expected outcomes of the medicines, side effects, and interactions with other medicines or food. 

If you have a condition that requires ongoing care, you may find yourself frequently talking with both your community pharmacist and your doctor. Pharmacists often collaborate directly with prescribers to help determine which medications are ideal for the treatment you need.

Protip: Feel free to ask questions about your medications, even when already home. Read the inserts and client education that’s typically attached to your medications. If you have questions, it’s safer to have them answered before taking your medicine. Of course, you’re always welcome to call the pharmacy to inquire about your medications.

What are the Qualities of a Good Pharmacist?

Your community pharmacist is a credible and trusted source for recommendations when you have questions and concerns about your medication. Pharmacists are among the top three most trusted medical professions. In 2020, a Gallup poll found that 71% of respondents found pharmacists to be ethical and honest. So when you have questions about your medicines, you can turn to an accessible and credible source–beyond a simple internet search:  Your community pharmacist!

A good pharmacist will have the following qualities:

  • Detail-oriented 
  • Personable and professional – easy to talk to!
  • Expert and knowledgeable
  • Able to explain about your medicines in a way that is easily understood
  • Willing to assist you with your questions
  • Ethical 
  • Kind and compassionate
Protip: If you don’t feel at ease with your pharmacist, you’re less likely to interact with them. Ultimately, you should find a pharmacist who you can talk to. You deserve individual attention, and you should feel comfortable asking your pharmacist questions.

Importance of Asking a Pharmacist

Whenever you pick up your medications from your pharmacists, the technician asks: “have any questions for the pharmacist?” Answer yes! Ask the pharmacist to give an overview of the medicine – how to take it, when to take it, etc.! Most community pharmacists are more than willing to help you find answers. Pharmacists often provide drug information in pamphlets and other documentation when you pick up your medication. However, if you find the information difficult to understand, a pharmacist is there to assist you. 

Say “yes” to the consult (when they ask if you have any questions)

Here are a few questions you can ask your community pharmacist.

  • What other medicines or supplements interact with this drug?
  • What side effects can I expect?
  • Is it safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women?
  • What are the signs that I might be allergic to this drug?
  • What do I do if I miss a dose?
  • How do I get a refill?
  • How should I store this medicine?
  • Are there any discounts or a generic version?
Protip: If you’re on more than two medications, it might help to check what medications the pharmacy has on file for you. Every so often, ask your pharmacist for a list of all the active prescriptions they have for you. Then, review this list with your doctors to ensure that you’re on the proper medications.

How Can Pharmacists Improve Healthcare?

As gatekeepers to essential medications, pharmacists hold a unique role in healthcare. They have close professional ties with your medical team – doctors and nurses. They also have regular direct contact with you. As a result, pharmacists have a bird’s eye view of your care and play a direct role. Therefore, pharmacists can recognize any need for improvement and effect change by speaking with your healthcare team. 

Your advocate

The role of a pharmacist includes being a patient advocate and leader. In addition, pharmacists are inherently efficient, accurate, and organized.  Their eagle-vision includes a view into what’s best when it comes to your medicines. Establishing a connection with one pharmacy is ideal for ensuring a relationship with a potential advocate for your care. 

How Do You Choose the Right Pharmacy and Pharmacist?

When looking for a pharmacy, get recommendations from friends, relatives, and your doctor. However, despite what you learn, your decision to choose a pharmacy may depend heavily on logistics. The pharmacy closest to your home, work, or physician’s office may prove the most convenient.

Yet keep in mind to avoid pharmacies with heavy traffic whenever possible. A pharmacy that is a little “slower” may mean the pharmacist will have more time to spend with you. 

If you cannot find a convenient pharmacy with minimal customer lines, choose low-traffic hours to obtain your medicines. By picking up your medication during less crowded hours, you’ll feel less pressure to speed through interactions with your pharmacist. 

Get to know the pharmacy technicians

A pharmacy will often utilize pharmacy technicians to assist pharmacists. These technicians are there to help you and will check with the pharmacist if they don’t know the answer or if you request. Choose a pharmacy where you feel at ease with the staff, and develop a professional and friendly relationship. Observe how the pharmacy operates. Are they organized? Do they communicate effectively? Once you find a pharmacy, stick with it. Moving from one pharmacy to another can lead to medication errors and impact developing a relationship with your pharmacist.

Protip: Check with your pharmacists about what wellness programs they might offer. Many pharmacies have vaccine clinics, urgent care, and even blood pressure checks. Take advantage of these programs to stay healthy!

Let a Community Pharmacist Help You with Your Healthcare

Your medicines play a significant role in your well-being. So why not get to know the person that provides them? The role of a community pharmacist is an integral part of your healthcare.

Do you want to know more about the other professions that make up your healthcare team? Then, head on over to the United States of Healthcare for tips, tools, and resources for navigating your healthcare and subscribe to the blog now.