When it comes to medical care, no one on the hospital team understands medications and the role they play in a patient's body like the pharmacist. While pharmacists have historically been responsible for dispensing prescriptions, 21st century hospital pharmacists often assume a more hands-on clinical role in patient care.
A hospital pharmacist dispenses medications prescribed by doctors and often helps to determine the optimal delivery method, deciding if the medicine will be most effective through ingestion, injection, topical or intravenous delivery. Pharmacists counsel patients on dosage, possible side effects and risks associated with each medicine and sometimes make hospital rounds with other medical staff to ensure that prescriptions are being properly administered. Doctors call on pharmacists for advice in choosing the best medications for patients, which means they must also be familiar with the patients' medical histories.
Many hospital pharmacists are also charged with administrative duties such as ordering medicines and biomedicines for the hospital; creating, maintaining and working within a pharmacy budget, and supervising pharmacy technicians and assistants. They sometimes hire and train new pharmacists and other staff members and conduct employee reviews. They provide quality assurance, checking to make sure other employees have correctly mixed and labeled medications and provided an accurate dose.
Though pharmacy was once an undergraduate degree, the road to dispensing medicine is getting longer, and a bachelor's degree is only the first stop. In the 2000s, new pharmacists often come to the job with a doctorate of pharmacy, also called a Pharm.D, and a well-rounded education in patient care, pharmacy management, public health, and developing medication distribution and control systems. This is a science-heavy degree with an emphasis on chemistry and pharmacology.
Job Outlook and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects faster than average job growth -- about 25 percent -- for all pharmacists between 2010 and 2020, with about 23 percent of them working in hospitals. As of May 2012, the median wage of pharmacists was $114,950. The top 10 percent earned more than $145,000, according to the bureau. Hospital pharmacists were the second-highest earners at $113,180. Retail pharmacists had a slightly higher annual wage of $116,980.