By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Community pharmacy, also known as retail pharmacy, is the most common type of pharmacy that allows the public access to their medications and advice about their health. Traditionally known as a chemist, it is the healthcare facility that is responsible for the provision of pharmaceutical service to a specific community group or region.
Most community pharmacies have a commercial store with a combination of medicinal goods only available with a prescription and those with that can be purchased over-the-counter.
Community pharmacists are considered to be the most accessible health professional to the public, as they are available to provide personalized advice about health and medicine on a walk-in basis, without the need for an appointment. 89% of the population in the United Kingdom can access a community pharmacy within a 20-minute walk.
Types of Community Pharmacies
There are several different types of community pharmacies. They range from small, individually owned pharmacies in the isolated rural towns to large chains in main shopping malls and supermarkets.
The types of community pharmacies also depend on the regulations in that area. For example, in the United States pharmacies in large chains or supermarkets are overwhelmingly more common than independently owned pharmacies. This is in contrast to many countries in Europe that limit pharmacies to be owned by a registered pharmacist, who is restricted to owning less than a certain number of pharmacies, making large chains impossible.
Role of the Community Pharmacist
Traditionally, the role of the community pharmacist is to provide medications to patients based on a prescription from their doctor. However, the role of the pharmacist has evolved greatly and is now deeply involved in a number of other health initiatives. The many tasks of a community pharmacist may include:
- Processing prescriptions: checking the prescription from the doctor and preparing the medication for the patient.
- Checking for drug interactions: making sure that the medications and doses are appropriate for the patient considering health factors and other medications.
- Dispensing medications: labeling the medication correctly with instructions for the patient about how to take the medication.
- Disposing of medication: taking unneeded medications from patients and disposing of them safely.
- Providing advice: helping patients to understand their health and medicines and giving appropriate advice.
- Promotion of healthy lifestyle: supporting patients to make healthier choices, such as eating more nutritious food, exercising more often or stopping smoking.
As the community pharmacist is often the health professional that patients see most often, they play an important role in the continued healthcare and checkups for patients. Additionally, they are in a good position to recommend routine screenings (e.g. for bowel cancer) at appropriate life stages.
Training and Education
The primary pillar in the education and training of all pharmacists, including those that work in a community pharmacy, is the safe and effective use of medicine to improve patient outcomes. The training provided in undergraduate programs, postgraduate programs and continued professional development is guided by this principle.
There are various subject matters that a community pharmacist should be familiar with including the chemistry and pharmacology of drugs and formations and the physiology and pathology of the body.
Depending on the country, the registration requirements for a community pharmacist may vary. A bachelor or master degree in Pharmacy is required, in addition to placement and a board examination to become registered. To maintain registration, continued professional development is needed to ensure the practice is kept up-to-date.
Reviewed by Jonas Wilson, Ing. Med.
Last Updated: Sep 6, 2016