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The different work settings of a pharmacist

As medical science advances, the health of the general public falls more firmly into the hands of trained and qualified pharmacists, working in a variety of settings.

The role of a pharmacist in a modern healthcare setting is ever-expanding. For example, while a patient might go to a specialist to understand the cause of hip pain, it could be a pharmacist who makes sure the specialist’s pain management protocol is understood and followed by the patient.

So, where would you find pharmacists carrying out their crucial roles? Also, are there special skill sets needed to keep pace with the increasing complexity of this profession?

Universal professional skills

Some of the main locations you would find pharmacists at work are outlined below. Each presents its own opportunities and challenges. However, alongside the core scientific and clinical competencies needed for any of these roles, all modern pharmacists need to be good communicators.

They also require excellent problem-solving and analytic abilities. One minute they could be advising a patient on pregnancy testing, and the next, cholesterol management for older patients with a family history of heart disease.

Whatever setting pharmacists choose to work in, they will need familiarity with technology. The systems used to dispense and audit healthcare drugs are now heavily focused on data use, recording, and analysis. As safe prescribing and dispensing of medication is a core function of pharmacists, attention to detail and dedication to accuracy are also universal skills for these professionals.

They also need to be emotionally intelligent individuals, that are empathetic toward their patients and are able to stay calm and focused under pressure.

This is one of the reasons that experiential training forms such an important part of studying a doctor of pharmacy online. The University of Findlay’s Distance PharmD program puts a focus on immersive, firsthand experience, alongside the convenience of studying remotely.  Experiential training is so important because interaction with patients and colleagues is a vital part of learning.

So, with this sort of qualification, where would a qualified pharmacist work?

Hospital pharmacies

This is probably the most obvious clinical setting for pharmacists, as these professionals play an important role in both in-patient and out-patient healthcare.

In hospitals, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians enjoy a highly varied day, that may go far beyond dispensing medicines and medical devices and advising patients. Pharmacists are now often part of multi-disciplinary care teams and are consulted about the best ways to address complex patient needs.

Also, within hospitals, they could be involved in developing, manufacturing, and testing new protocols, and in monitoring the effectiveness of medicines used in clinical settings. A patient’s recovery may depend on the hospital pharmacist’s ability to recommend treatment adjustments, additions, and changes. They could also be tasked with quality assurance and the effectiveness of medicine information departments.

Also, within hospital settings, pharmacists can choose from a range of specialties. For example, they could opt to focus their personal and professional skills on cancer (oncology) or heart (cardiology) treatment. There are also pharmacists who specialize in supporting patients who have mental health issues, or who focus on child health (pediatrics) or the care of older people. Some pharmacists may also specialize in urgent and emergency medicine departments.

Community Pharmacists

Community pharmacies are at the frontline of healthcare provision in the US and worldwide, and this can include high street stores and health center outlets.

In this setting, pharmacists may well be dealing with requests for advice and instruction daily and may be tasked with carrying out small procedures and checks to diagnose and treat medical conditions. This is often referred to as being an ambulatory care pharmacist. In tandem with physicians and other prescribers, they will help patients to manage chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Community pharmacists can be their own bosses or employees of large pharmacy companies. Either way, they may have management obligations added to their responsibilities, and a duty to make sure all staff operate within strict clinical rules and regulations. Stock control and cost efficiency may also be part of a community pharmacist’s role.

Industrial/research pharmacist

There has already been a reference to the fact pharmacists in hospitals can play an important part in monitoring drug protocols, and in gathering important insights on efficiency, side effects, and other issues.

The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on professionals in this field to underpin its research and development, and analyze long-term drug effectiveness, for instance, so employs its own pharmacists.

Pharmacists can also specialize in research within academic settings, potentially also playing a role in educating future healthcare professionals.

In-care facility pharmacists

Not all pharmacists working in medical facilities are employed by hospitals. There are a variety of other organizations and venues that need their specific skillset and personal abilities.

For example, larger care facilities for the elderly may have their own in-house pharmacist. Pharmacists are also found within specialist medical establishments for high-risk mental health patients.

Alongside this, there are pharmacy jobs in prisons, and in the military, for anyone who wants an alternative to working in a hospital, health center, or community setting.

Regulatory bodies

Finally, no round-up of the places you would find pharmacists working would be complete without mentioning the regulators who maintain quality and safety standards in this vital healthcare sector.

Both pharmacy companies and government bodies need qualified pharmacists to help them spread good practices, enforce laws on this topic, and develop new systems to control innovation and regulation in such a rapidly advancing field.


Pharmacy is one of the fastest growing areas of healthcare, as having more treatments available demands professionals with the knowledge and skills to dispense and monitor them appropriately.  This often requires a combination of both clinical and scientific skills, and pharmacists are increasingly supporting the work of other medical professionals.

Advances in medical science also mean that pharmacists, working in various settings, are also essential to championing patient safety and educating them on their medications. Pharmacists also need to have excellent teamwork skills and be adept at working with a range of other healthcare professionals. 

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