By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Clinical pharmacy is a branch of pharmacy that involves the provision of patient care with the use of medications to optimize the health outcomes of patients. This includes promoting wellness and preventing disease. The practice of clinical pharmacy embraces pharmaceutical care philosophy. Furthermore it combines patient care with specialized therapeutic knowledge about the use of medications.
The clinical pharmacy movement has been initiated in medical clinics and hospitals, but has since expanded to all healthcare settings. Therefore, clinical pharmacists now often work as part of a multidisciplinary team with physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals to optimize the use of medications for the best patient outcomes.
Role of the Clinical Pharmacist
Clinical pharmacists are the experts in the therapeutic use of medicines in the healthcare team and may perform various tasks including:
- Evaluating medication therapy and making appropriate recommendations to patients or health practitioners.
- Providing evidence-based information and advice about the safe and effective use of medications.
- Recognizing untreated health conditions that could be managed with medication therapy.
- Monitoring patient progress with medications and making relevant recommendations to change
- Advising patients about the best way to take medications
- Assisting in direct care of patients in hospitals and surgeries.
- Developing requirements for post registration continued professional development for governing bodies.
Historically, the role of the clinical pharmacist was usually limited to hospitals, clinics and educational institutes, but this is quickly growing and they are becoming more easily accessible to the public. This growth is coming about through the involvement of clinical pharmacists in reviewing medication regimens and assisting with advice on information hotlines to prevent medication errors in the future.
Depending on the country or state of practice, some clinical pharmacists are also able to prescribe some medications and the scope for this continues to expand.
Clinical pharmacists often apply their knowledge of medications in the medication plan of a particular patient and evaluate the appropriateness of the dose, side effects, efficacy and drug interactions. When needed, the clinical pharmacist may discuss any issues and make relevant recommendations to the physician primarily responsible for prescribing patient medications to ensure that the medications are utilized in an optimal manner.
In many cases, the clinical pharmacist with work directly with patients to help them understand the medications they take and encourage them to take the medications as directed.
Education and Training
Clinical pharmacists are required to acquire higher education training in a recognized degree area to practice. The specific requirements for these degrees may vary according to the country of the workplace.
Subject matter that is usually covered in the university program for a clinical pharmacist includes biology, chemistry, pathology, pharmacology and socio-behavioral science.
Most clinical pharmacists in the United States have obtained a Doctor of Pharmacy (Phar.D.), in addition to several years of postgraduate training, such as a pharmacy residency. They can opt to become certified as a clinical pharmacist through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, which is independent of the American Pharmacist Association. The education requirements and certification in other countries are likely to vary according to the guidelines set by the regulatory bodies.
Reviewed by Jonas Wilson, Ing. Med.
Last Updated: Sep 7, 2016