Case Study: Community Pharmacist - Eric

What do you do?

When a customer comes into our pharmacy, I deal with prescriptions that they have got from their doctor.

I'm qualified to handle drugs and dispense them. When I hand over the pills or medicine, I advise the customer on their use and possible side-effects.

I also manage the pharmacy. So, I'm responsible for employing, training and organising employees, as well as managing the business side of things, such as the accounts.

What is your background?

My dad is a pharmacist. If you had asked me if I wanted to be a pharmacist when I was a kid, I would have said 'no'. Yet here I am!

I liked science at school, and once I was aware of the benefits of being a pharmacist (including the salary and the job security), my mind was made up. The beauty of pharmacy is that it allows you to have a personal life, which can't be said for some careers in the medical world.

Before becoming a pharmacist, I worked as a pharmacy technician during summer breaks. I chose 'community' because I thought it was the most interesting. I spent my pre-registration year in community pharmacy.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

All prescriptions need to be carried out accurately every time, even when the pharmacy is busy or during other stressful periods.

A prescription that's been carried out incorrectly can have fatal results. For that reason, all pharmacists have to be very conscientious and focused.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

Pharmacists could do any job where detail and consistency are important. I think pharmacists have a very good work ethic and are excellent with the public.

Our expertise in drugs can't be used in many jobs, but there are some other professions that are relevant, such as pharmacology and toxicology. You'd need extra training to move into those areas, though.

What changes will there be in the future?

I think there may be increased demand for pharmacists in the future. Many medical problems that traditionally required hospitalisation or inpatient care are now being dealt with on an outpatient basis.

The drug treatments and patient advice that pharmacists provide play a central role in such outpatient treatments.

The use of computers to provide information, process drug prescriptions and improve documentation will continue to increase.

It's also likely that pharmacists will spend more time on clinical research and advisory activities, as pharmacy technicians are now capable of performing many of the more basic tasks.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

You have to dispense medicine accurately, and that can be a challenge when you're busy.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

There are many opportunities, but there really is no entry-level position. Once you have an approved degree in pharmacy (and have completed your pre-registration year and registration exams), you're a pharmacist.

What do you like about your job?

Some of the things I like about community pharmacy are the interactions with customers. You can help them solve problems that other people can't. They give you positive feedback, saying that you were really helpful. That's a good feeling.

I like working in a changing environment. There is a lot to do during the day. It keeps you really busy. The time goes really quickly and you're never bored.

Also, the flexibility that it affords. You can leave work and not have to worry about your job, so you can have a personal life.

What do you dislike about your job?

The stress levels can very high, especially at very busy times.

You don't have the time to help people as much as you would like. You're not able to do your job to your full extent because of how busy it is.

Also, some customers can be unpleasant - that can be hard to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

If you like working directly with people, pharmacy can be very rewarding. You have to be pleasant every day though, and that's not always easy. People aren't always at their best when they are sick.

A day in the life

8:00 am - 11:00 am

Greeting customers and helping them with any medical questions regarding their prescriptions.

Completing prescriptions and taking notes on any special needs the customers have. Putting orders away and stocking shelves. Answering questions about 'over the counter' products.

11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Training a new employee on how to help customers, by showing him where we keep information and where prescriptions are located. Helping him at the till.

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

  • data entry of doctors' information, as well as customers'
  • typing in orders and prescriptions
  • checking the accounts.

2:00 pm - 2:45 pm


2:45 pm - 5:30 pm

  • reading though the day's mail and email
  • updating the stock list of medications
  • tidying up
  • helping customers and answering their questions.

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