Fields of Pharmacy Practice
In a world where you could be anything, you chose to be a pharmacist. But what type of pharmacist? Can we just take a deep breath and analyse how broad pharmaceutical practice is… aah, better?
I recently had a sit down with an experienced pharmacist and he shared with me the various fields in which a young pharmacist like you and I can venture in. As we list away the different fields, keep in mind that one is not just limited to the listed options. The practice is as broad and endless as the oceans. Now let us embark on the listing, vamos!
Here are fields of pharmacy practice you can follow:
- Academic Pharmacist
We have all interacted with an academic pharmacist. You know the doctor that takes you through pharmacology, or the professor who lectures in pharmaceutics or pharmaceutical chemistry? The most interesting concept about this field is having an influence on shaping the future of the profession by training future pharmacists. Such pharmacists enjoy the autonomy that comes with academia in that, it comes with this freedom to pursue other interests one may have; per se, art, business or research perhaps?
With seven (7) institutions currently offering a baccalaureate degree in pharmacy, options in academia are not limited. For this, a pharmacist is required to have at least a Masters in any pharmacy graduate program. Currently, there are seven graduate programs offered in our local universities. These are; Clinical Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Analysis, Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacovigilance, Industrial Pharmacy, Pharmacognosy and Complementary medicine, Molecular Pharmacology or Pharmacology and Toxicology. Whichever your poison is. Note, a pharmacist in the country also has the option to advance their graduate studies overseas, where there’s much more options.
2. Hospital Pharmacist.
Hospital pharmacy has a very broad plain of practice and is currently covered under the Hospital Pharmacists Association of Kenya (HOPAK). The practice could be subdivided into the Outpatient pharmacy or the in-patient pharmacy and the pharmacist is involved in dispensing, compounding of drugs, therapeutic drug monitoring, counselling on medication therapy, medication reports and maintaining controlled substances records. Hospital pharmacists can further be specialised in various fields for instance,
3. Ambulatory pharmacy
Pharmacists in this field are tasked with the management of patient who are at risk of drug related problems e.g. patients in polypharmacy, with narrow index drugs etcetera… They are also involved in the care of patients with chronic diseases or conditions like asthma, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, among others. They are situated either in the outpatient pharmacy or in-patient pharmacy and even in specialised pharmacies like the CCC or psychiatry pharmacy.
4. Critical care pharmacy
Such pharmacists are tasked with making life and death decisions while under duress. They may be situated in Intensive Care Units (ICUs), HDUs and even hospices. Their main aim is to optimize medication use so as to save the lives of these critically ill patients. With very limited data on intensive care patients, such pharmacists are always carrying out research to fill such voids. Here is a helpful video curtesy of PSK (Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya).
5. Hospice Pharmacy
Hospice pharmacists work with terminally ill patients and majorly focus on providing palliative care. They work with controlled substances e.g. narcotics to atleast alleviate pain in the terminally ill patients.
6. Oncology pharmacy
These pharmacists have specialised training in the treatment and management of different forms of cancer. They use various chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy techniques for cancer management while closely monitoring individual dosing, administration and the effects presented to respective patients.
7. Infectious disease pharmacy
This readily focuses on the avid use of microbiology and pharmacology. With specific focus on the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of antimicrobials in the development and monitoring of drug regimens. These pharmacists are key drivers of antimicrobial resistance awareness as they personally work with resistant microorganisms and see their effect on patients first hand.
8. Pediatric Pharmacy
Children are one of the important demographics in medicine. Their medication needs close monitoring and tailoring due to their underdeveloped physiology. Paediatric pharmacists tailor-make drugs for children based on their specific ages and weights.
9. Nutrition Support Pharmacy
Pharmacists in this subset use nutraceuticals, natural products and modify nutritional supplements to provide nutritional support to special patient demographics, for example, pregnant patients or patients with chronic conditions like diabetes and cancers or even those in need of parenteral nutrition.
10. Community Pharmacist
Community pharmacists could either venture into retail or wholesale sale of drugs and medical equipment. There is even an option to combine both human and veterinary medicine, depending on the demand of your locale. Some pharmacists who have ventured into the wholesale trade of pharmaceuticals have dived into the supply chain phase of pharmacy. From importing raw materials for pharmaceutical industries, to parallel importation of drugs or even import of medical equipment. Community pharmacists need additional knowledge and training so as to execute such activities effectively for example, management, psychology, pharmacotherapy and even public health training.
11. Industrial pharmacist
In this subset of pharmacy, pharmacists are involved in the manufacture of medicines. The different dosage forms of drugs from injectables, to sterile products e.g. eye drops, normal saline, nasal drops, oral dosage forms like syrups, suspensions, solutions, tablets and capsules, and not forgetting external preparations like creams et al. Pharmacists in industries could act as the company pharmacist who is the direct link between the board and the industry, the Quality assurance manager, Quality control manager or even the production pharmacist. Pharmacists can also work in the quality assurance department under the QA manager.
Apart from pharmaceutical industries, industrial pharmacists could also work in food manufacturing plants or event soap manufacturing industries like Cussons ltd.
12. Nuclear Pharmacist
These pharmacists deal with the handling of radioactive compounds which are used for diagnosis and even treatment of various medical conditions. They are tasked with the procurement, compounding, dispensing, distribution of radiopharmaceuticals and monitoring patient outcome and safety. Nuclear pharmacy is a growing field and it offers great promise of employment in the future.
13. Forensic Pharmacists
Forensic pharmacists are involved in the use of drug knowledge to resolve legal problems in criminal justice e.g. homicides, and regulatory processes. They can work in poison centers, forensic laboratories, criminal defense, directorate of criminal investigations, research and academic institutions, among others.
14. Pharmaceutical innovation and drug development
This subset of pharmacy deals with the research, discovery, design, innovation and development of drugs. Here, pharmacists are involved in drug discovery, preclinical and clinical drug trials, post marketing surveillance, among others. They may have a masters degree in Pharmaceutical technology, Biostatistics, Clinical Trials, Medicinal Chemistry, Molecular Pharmacology, Pharmaceutical Biotechnology or Pharmaceutical Microbiology.
15. Regulatory Affairs and Health Policy
These are pharmacy specialists involved in the pharmaceutical regulatory affairs. They stay relevant with, formulate and adjust the policies and legal framework governing the profession. They provide regulatory guidance to other members of the healthcare sector or regulatory agencies. The areas of practice include but are not limited to; academia, administration, leadership at regulatory institutions, manufacturing industries, NGOs, occupational health and safety, and leadership at both national and county levels.
Well, attachment and internships come in handy in opening one’s mind in choosing which field they venture into. For instance, had one been attached to a hospital facility, industrial setting and/or community (retail) pharmacy, then by the end of the day, they would at least have a rough idea on what they like and what they don’t. Due to how broad hospital practice is, hospital rotations are also key, as one would be able to highlight the different subsets of clinical pharmacy and note fields of interest.
Note, that one does not have to make their mind right away, it is okay to change your mind again and again while trying to find your footing. An important note is not to be afraid to partake on any task or opportunity presented your way. You never know until you try!
My sincere gratitude to the savvy Dr. Guya Membo, Director of Ramogi Chemist, for his unending wisdom and guidance, and for sharing his time.
Which field of Pharmacy Practice are you interested in? Kindly share and comment down below. Also check out our previous blog post on The Best YouTube Channels For Medical Students if you haven’t already.