Pharmacists are health care professionals who specialize in medications. To practise in their field, pharmacists must hold a bachelor's, master's, and/or doctoral degree and have completed supervised internships.
The role of pharmacists has changed significantly in recent years. Broadly speaking, they are responsible for ensuring that you receive safe and effective treatment. This can now be achieved in a number of ways - primarily by working with you, but also by collaborating with other health care professionals.
When you bring a new prescription to your pharmacy, a certain procedure must be followed before you receive your medication.
First, the prescription details must be added to your file. Your pharmacist then has to analyze your file. This step generally takes the most time, as several factors must be considered to ensure that the medication you've been prescribed is right for you.
Here's an example of how a prescription might be assessed:
- Is it for the right person, the right drug, the right dose, and the right route and time of administration?
- Is this the most effective treatment for the targeted condition?
- Does this medication come with any contraindications or precautions?
- Could it interact with other medications the patient is taking?
- What are the side effects of this medication?
- What follow-up does this treatment require?
Certain situations can arise during the analysis of your file. For example, your pharmacist may need to validate a missing piece of information about your prescription, or they could be interrupted by a query, a phone call from a medical clinic, etc.
While your file is being analyzed, the team at the pharmacy will get the medication ready. This may involve counting tablets or measuring and mixing certain ingredients. Your pharmacist will then check to make sure everything has been prepared correctly.
All of these steps and considerations are necessary in order to issue your medication and the recommendations for its use.
Out of all health care professionals, pharmacists are the most accessible. They are asked to answer many health-related questions from patients every day. During a consultation, they need to fully understand each patient's situation in order to make appropriate and effective recommendations. Examples of what a pharmacist might recommend include:
- Taking an over-the-counter medication (i.e., one that doesn't require a prescription)
- Performing basic care (e.g., cleaning a wound)
- Adopting healthier lifestyle habits (e.g., exercise)
- Consulting a different health care specialist for further evaluation
Depending on your province or territory, your pharmacist may be able to provide other services as well.
Here are a few examples of authorized pharmacy activities:
- Extending your prescription
- Administering medications and vaccines
- Prescribing certain medications under certain conditions
- Modifying your treatment to ensure its safety or effectiveness
- Ordering blood tests
Inquire at your pharmacy to learn about the services they offer.
How you can help your pharmacy help you
The following tips may help improve your experience with your pharmacy:
- Get all your medications from the same pharmacy
- Have a complete list of your medications on hand
- Synchronize your prescription refills
- Refill your prescriptions through your pharmacy's automated telephone service or via their website or app
- Plan ahead to avoid surprises
- Remember that some services require more time (e.g., travel consultations, refilling and preparing multiple prescriptions)
- If you're in a hurry, you can ask your pharmacist to call you back later. Your medications may also be delivered later.
- To speed things up, you can also request the following:
- That your prescriptions be prepared a few days in advance
- That your medications be refilled automatically every month
- Let your pharmacy know if you'd like to have someone else pick up your medications for you.
- You may be asked to provide written or verbal authorization. This measure helps prevent unwanted situations such as confidentiality breaches, theft, or misuse of your medication.