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Critical Thinking Skills for a Pharmacist

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Critical thinking skills are steeped in logic, reasoning and inquiry. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, critical thinking involves a thorough evaluation of information, issues and ideas before an opinion or course of action is made. These skills are desirable for most any occupation. In pharmacy, critical thinking skills are necessary for patient safety and well-being. Critical thinking skills for a pharmacist include the ability to analyze, evaluate, interpret and decide the best strategy for dispensing medicine.

Everyday Analytics

Pharmacists need critical thinking abilities to analyze the strength and purity of medications. This skill is important when it comes to dispensing the proper medicine at the proper dose. Patients trust that medicines given are precisely what their doctor ordered. They may also have questions about certain over-the-counter drugs or medicines and look to their pharmacist for answers. For example, if a patient is weighing a choice between two different medicines that treat the same ailment, the pharmacist can analyze drug and patient information and provide reasons for supporting one drug remedy over another.

Prescription Checks and Balances

Critical thinking skills are also important in reviewing patient prescriptions. The pharmacist must evaluate prescriptions for accuracy. A thorough evaluation also allows a pharmacist to assess drug adequacy and suitability of the ingredients. Before filling a prescription, a pharmacist can check out other medications the patient is taking to determine if there are possible drug interactions. These checks and balances allow the pharmacist to raise any questions or concerns with a patient or patient’s physician when necessary.

Data Mining and Interpretation

When doctors write prescriptions, sometimes a pharmacist has to interpret the information to come up with the proper dose and the total amount of medicine to dispense. Critical thinking skills are needed to calculate these drug quantities. Also, patients may experience side effects with prescription medicines and bring these issues to their pharmacist. The pharmacist can collect information about the drug and patient symptoms to figure out reasons for the side effects. This effort requires critical thinking to understand, combine, organize and interpret mounds of information to reach a valid conclusion.

Consults, Questions and Decisions

Prudent decisions are important when a pharmacist serves in an advisory role. Some drugs require certain equipment or supplies for proper administration. When choices are numerous, patients often make use of a pharmacist’s expertise and seek advice about a particular brand to use. Since critical thinking is inquiry based, a pharmacist must question and listen to the patient to make sure needs are understood before giving advice. Patients may also have questions about new prescriptions. For example, should the medicine be taken with food or on an empty stomach? Critical thinking skills allow proper consults, whether in the form of immediate answers or a recommendation to seek medical care.


Deb Dupree has been an active writer throughout her career in the corporate world and in public service since 1982. She has written numerous corporate and educational documents including project reports, procedures and employee training programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Tennessee.

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