Pharmacy is an interesting branch of science and medicine. Within pharmacy, there are a variety of unique areas with their own purposes and specialties. Some of these areas are defined by the work environment, for example, home care and hospital pharmacy, while others relate to demographics, regulations, and medicinal qualities.
For those looking to pursue a career in science and healthcare, being aware of the different types of pharmacy is vital for professional development and job opportunities. If you wish to advance beyond traditional pill-dispensing roles, there are a vast array of interesting and engaging roles available within the pharmaceutical field.
Earning a bachelor’s degree and completing a post-graduate program will put you at an advantage when applying for these roles. Fortunately, it is now possible for busy professionals to specialize in a desired area by completing a PharmD online program designed for distance learners. This program, run by the leading University of Findlay, will give you all the knowledge, tools, and qualifications needed to secure roles in the pharmaceutical industry.
What are the different types of pharmacy?
One of the most obvious working environments for pharmacists is within hospitals and other health facilities, where the pharmacy will oversee all aspects of medicinal preparation and dispensation. Hospital pharmacists handle the logistics of medicine to ensure they help healthcare providers deliver safe and positive outcomes for patients. This involves the selection, procurement, and prescription of medicines for patients, and maintaining rigorous standards for pharmaceutical care. This requires upholding the seven “rights” related to the correct drugs, dosage, documentation, and timing, among other factors.
Clinical pharmacists are more directly involved in the creation of care plans with physicians and nurses to support patients. They work as part of a broader healthcare team that operates in hospitals and other facilities in local communities. Rather than managing the logistics of medicine, clinical pharmacists use their expertise in clinical, social, behavioral, and biomedical science to optimize how drugs are used. This involves monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness and safety of medicine and taking steps to prevent adverse reactions and mitigate other risks. Clinical pharmacists are usually educated at degree level.
Industrial pharmacists work in corporate laboratories where they will research and design new medicines and conduct clinical trials. Research laboratories are often at the cutting edge of healthcare and central to advancements in medicine, and it can be exciting and fulfilling work. Industrial pharmacists will use advanced technology to support the development of new pharmaceuticals. They often support different phases within pharma production, such as packaging and quality control. Industrial pharmacists may also advocate for, market, and promote their company’s new products.
The word ‘compound’ is defined as a thing that is made of two or more separate elements. Compounding pharmacy involves creating bespoke medication for the specific needs of a patient. If commercially available drugs are not a viable solution, compound pharmacists may have to reformulate a tablet or remove or add an ingredient to make a personalized drug for a patient. This might be required if a patient is allergic to a medicine or if a change in dosage is required. Compound pharmacists can work in a range of environments, including clinical and residential centers.
One of the more intriguing areas of pharmacy is ‘nuclear pharmacy’, which is centered around radioactive materials and drugs. Pharmacists with this specialty will order, store, and control the supply of radiopharmaceuticals in laboratories in institutional and commercial settings. As you might expect, the work can be dangerous – “There are risks involved because you are working with radioactive isotopes,” former associate professor Gregory Smallwood says – but the financial rewards are enticing; the average annual salary is an impressive $150,000.
Ambulatory care pharmacy
Moving back to more traditional pharmacy roles, ambulatory care specializes in providing care to patients in higher-risk categories. These patients are likely to have chronic illnesses or be part of the elderly population. Ambulatory pharmacists are more mobile than other healthcare professionals and will meet patients at home and at other accessible locations to dispense medication. This is part of an outpatient service, and it helps reduce the need for patients to visit hospitals frequently. Ambulatory pharmacists will also smooth the transition for patients from hospital wards to other care facilities. They will promote wellness and educate patients to improve outcomes in the long term.
Regulatory pharmacy aims to establish regulatory frameworks for the safe and responsible dispensation of medicine. Work environments are slightly different here, as you might expect. Regulatory pharmacists won’t be on the frontline of healthcare. Instead, they are more likely to be a member of a regulatory health board or work in office-type departments within pharma companies and government bodies. For these roles, an in-depth understanding of medicinal law and regulations is required. Regulatory pharmacists look to create rules that support and promote positive health outcomes for patients. This is vital work and requires a degree in a discipline such as chemistry or physics.
Home care pharmacy
Home care pharmacy is unique in that it requires pharmacists to prepare and administer injections rather than prescribing pills and medicine. This is because home care, or infusion pharmacy, is solely focused on supporting patients who are critically ill at home. This might involve end-of-life care and advanced forms of chemotherapy. Pharmacists that specialize in home care might be experienced in a specific area of illness, such as oncology, which is a branch of science that is centered around tumors and cancer symptoms.
This is an exhaustive but not complete overview of some of the different types of pharmacy. There are dozens of specialties within pharmacy, which is why it is such a compelling career path for anyone with an interest or passion for medicine and healthcare.