In 2014, U.S. healthcare spending rose to $3 trillion dollars. Astonishingly, this is projected to increase as the pharmaceutical industry continues to grow, and the number of patients seeking care increases due to the initiation of the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, what is the solution to reducing these healthcare costs, managing the constant innovative therapies that are becoming available for patients, and optimizing patient outcomes? It is the medication experts on the healthcare team, pharmacists.
Pharmacists become the medication experts by obtaining a four-year professional degree and completing post-doctoral residency or fellowship training. With this training, the career options are vast, such as: community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, ambulatory care pharmacy, academia, clinical research, formulary management, veterinary pharmacy, regulatory affairs, pharmacy management, and many others! Regardless of the end career, the goal of pharmacists today is to advance the quality and value of patient care.
As a second year student pharmacist, I have the privilege of working towards my Doctor of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy – Chapel Hill. Life as a student pharmacist is stressful and rewarding all in the same day. I take classes in pharmacotherapy, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, patient care, pharmacy law, and medicinal chemistry for nine months of the year. Then, I spend my summers in different pharmacy practice settings to obtain real world pharmacy experience. Also, during my time in pharmacy school, I work on a research project with a faculty mentor. Unique to the pharmacy profession is the opportunity to be a member of many national professional associations that enable you to gain experience in professional advocacy, professional development, and community service. Therefore, throughout the year I have the opportunity to travel to and attend professional conferences for these associations, in order to learn about new pharmacy practices and engage in professional networking. In addition, at the local level, I am able to make a difference in my own community by working with my peers to organize opportunities for patient point of care testing at health fairs and free clinics, counsel patients on their over the counter medications, and educate patients about safe medication use. As you can imagine, a day in the life of a student pharmacist is overwhelming, but the satisfaction of growing as a healthcare professional forces me to wake up the next morning and do it all again! Something different about pharmacy school compared to my undergraduate education at UC Santa Barbara, is that the focus of my efforts is not on my exam grades, but on the principles and practices I am learning as a student pharmacist that will make me the best pharmacist I can be, for my future patients.
For those Gauchos interested in becoming a pharmacist, you are definitely in the right state! California just passed a law, SB 493, which expands the scope of pharmacy practice for advanced practice pharmacists. This law enables pharmacists to order and interpret laboratory tests, initiate and discontinue medications for patients, and perform patient assessments. With this expanded scope of practice comes a surge of career opportunities for pharmacists, and more opportunities for the medication experts on the healthcare team to optimize patient care.
To learn more about the profession of pharmacy, I recommend checking out these websites!
- American Pharmacists Association (APhA): http://www.pharmacist.com
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP): http://www.ashp.org
- California Pharmacists Association (CPA): http://www.cpha.com