I have been talked about specialist clinical community pharmacist a few times now to mainly blank faces. OK all pharmacists are ‘clinical’, but what makes you a specialist
When a pharmacist qualifies they are a generalist. From their undergraduate course and pre-registration year they know a little bit about a lot of things. The world is their oyster.
Their main line choices were community pharmacy and hospital pharmacy, but I am very glad to see GP practice pharmacy becoming a real first line option and challenging mental health, community and prisons. I know that there are many other options and I am an example of a rather different career path.
Pharmacists join their chosen career path and learn new skills and new knowledge and they specialise. They may add new qualifications to their CV and they become a sort of advanced practitioner – perhaps a consultant pharmacist. You see this clearly in hospital and it is becoming established in General Practice where pharmacists can and do become partners in the practice. There is clearly reward and recognition.
But what about community pharmacists? Can we even describe what specialist in community pharmacy is? I have looked at lots of the recent education events and have been thoroughly disappointed. Many talks are delivered by medical consultants and pharmacist consultants from the hospital sector who tell you what they know and what they do. So they fill your head with loads of awfully exciting stuff that you can’t really put into practice unless you change career paths.
Where will being an expert in dispensing get us – where will our in-depth knowledge of antiTNF medicines in RA get us while the medicines come through cold chain delivery straight to the patient’s home – where we don’t have full read/write access to medical notes – and we don’t have responsibility for patient management?
It is little use complaining that community pharmacists should come out from the back room and interact with patients, if they don’t know what to do? I am not talking about responding to symptoms and groping along a shelf and reading the labels to the customer. Today I am not even sure that the pharmacist would know what the shop stocked and could explain why they stock it. A ‘shop’ stocks things that they think they can sell, but a ‘pharmacy’ stocks things that they should sell.
I am talking about proactively interacting with patients to explore their complaints and offer them advice – perhaps even sell them something. Then they will be a specialist clinical community pharmacist.