It could be argued that the role of the pharmacist has been underestimated by the professional boundaries and the widespread use of the word "professionalism" beyond the established disciplines. Goals, tracking and managing performance are challenges that all professionals face and there is a question about how much autonomy an individual has when taking on a role. Many have chosen the pharmacy career as a profession, but often end up pursuing organisational goals that they may not agree with.
However, striving for a flexible, adaptable workforce that can meet, the healthcare needs, of a growing population with multiple long-term conditions means that there is more work beyond the professional boundaries and professional roles inevitably become more homogeneous. Although taking on new roles can be enriching, there is also the risk of a profession losing its way, or worse, losing its identity. Poorly defined professional role limits can also be a source of conflict and there is a risk that the interests of patients and the public will not be served.
The role of pharmacist must be in line with the roles of others, such as doctors, nurses, pharmacy technicians, etc. The nature of the power and responsibility between these relationships must be clear, as well as what are the formal and informal expectations between them.
The need for the development of the profession
Traditional efforts to summarise the pharmacist's role have been "product-focused", that is, through the drug (usually its manufacture and supply) and the relevant information provided. It could therefore be said that the primary role of the pharmacist was to be an expert in medicines.
Now the focus of the role has shifted towards that of the caregiver - the pharmacist is committed to anthropocentric care by ensuring high quality drug use and counselling. This includes the effectiveness, safety and experience of the patient. The pharmacist may also have general roles as an educator, manager, mentor, business / service planner, leader, researcher, etc. The proportion of additional roles taken on will depend on the location of their practice, experience, skills, interests and other factors. The role may not need to be directly aimed at the patient and focus on the individual.
The role of the pharmacist is changing and will continue to change along with the needs and expectations of patients or users of the service. Change is always present. The structure of the NHS-national healthcare system, and of the wider economy, is changing, with the result that services need to be restructured to fit new care models that are closer to the patient. Advances in technology, socio-political changes, greater access to information and the transition to interdisciplinary work (including role replacements, role improvements and role extensions) mean that pharmacists need to change their way of working.
By defining the basic qualities of the role, appropriate selection, training, training and workforce planning can be developed. Pharmacists, therefore, need to adapt to be able to develop their own practices and roles to meet changing needs. The willingness to be more actively involved in decision-making and take on greater leadership responsibilities should certainly be at the heart of the role. Pharmacists should also be able to move more flexibly, such as between hospitals and the community, and understand that their roles will change throughout their careers.
Science must be a fundamental part of the role so that it can then be applied, for example, to clinical problem solving. Other key elements need to be agreed upon and patients, the public and other professionals informed about the depth and breadth of pharmacists' training as well as the skills they can expect from them.
If the role of the pharmacist is very limited, we run the risk of poverty and one-sided occupation leading to a stalemate. If evolution is multifaceted and multidimensional, it will make sense. The reward of a true understanding of our role is that we are all committed to the benefit of patients.
Master of Pharmacy
University of Sunderland
- The Pharmaceutical Journal, January 2018, Vol 300, No 7909, online | DOI: 10.1211 / PJ.2018.20204131