By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
There are many different types of pharmacy, and other places where a trained pharmacist may work. This includes:
- community pharmacy
- hospital pharmacy
- clinical pharmacy
- industrial pharmacy
- compounding pharmacy
- consulting pharmacy
- ambulatory care pharmacy
- regulatory pharmacy
- home care pharmacy
There are various other specializations in the field of pharmacy. Each of these is covered in more detail below.
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Also known as a retail pharmacy, the community pharmacy is the most well known type of pharmacy. It is this type that is most traditionally known as the pharmacist or chemist shop. A community pharmacist usually works in a store that provides the community with access to the medications they need, as well as advice to promote the safe and effective use of the medicines they provide. They can tell their customers what drugs may interact with each other or with alcohol, and help prevent dangerous or troublesome combinations or side-effects of medication. Helping patients with the reimbursement of drug expenses, supervising pharmacy technicians and keeping inventory of the drugs stocked also make up part of their duties.
A hospital pharmacy is the place where the management of medications occurs in a hospital, medical clinic or nursing home. A hospital pharmacist often works in close collaboration with other health professionals to ensure that the medication regimen for each patient is optimized to achieve the best outcomes. They may also be involved with clinical trials, as well as compounding medications for individualized dosing or sterile medications. Teaching, administrative functions in the selection, proper storage, distribution and prescription protocols of drugs, education of medical staff in the aspects of selection, administration and monitoring of drug safety, as well as assessing drug levels and drug safety may all be part of their work. Hospital pharmacists may be inpatient or outpatient pharmacists, and may also specialize in one or other area of pharmacotherapy.
The clinical pharmacy exists in a number of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes and other medical centers. The aim of clinical pharmacy is to ensure the optimal use of medications for the best outcomes through the provision of drug information and monitoring for drug safety and efficacy. They can predict drug interactions and so prevent many adverse reactions to medication.
The industrial pharmacy involves the pharmaceutical industry and includes the research, production, packaging, quality control, marketing and sales of pharmaceutical goods. An industrial pharmacist may work as a representative for a particular pharmaceutical company to advocate for the use of its products, as well as to inform practitioners about their actions and benefits.
A compounding pharmacy involves the production and preparation of medicines in new forms. This may include reformulating a powder tablet to a solution, which can assist in the administration of the drug for certain patients.
A compounding pharmacist may work in a community, clinical or residential-based setting, depending on the purpose of their formulation. They may also dispense ready-made medications in some circumstances.
The consulting pharmacy is a relatively new branch of pharmacy, born in 1990. It focuses on the theoretical review of medications rather than dispensing medicines. Consultant pharmacists often work in nursing homes or visit patients in-home to provide their services, in order to enable them to use medications most effectively.
Ambulatory Care Pharmacy
The ambulatory pharmacy provides healthcare services to many patients in rural areas, particularly to geriatric populations. These pharmacists help in the management of patients who are at higher risk of drug-related problems or disease complications due to lack of control over the condition. As ambulatory pharmacy is a mobile service that can meet patients where they are, and therefore help to reduce the number of hospital visits that their patients require. They are often directly or indirectly employees of a managed healthcare organization.
Also known as government pharmacy, regulatory pharmacy is responsible for creating rules and regulations for the safe use of medicine to promote positive health outcomes. This includes pharmacists working in public health and regulatory health boards, such as the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.
Home Care Pharmacy
Home care pharmacy primarily involves the preparation and delivery of injectables to critically ill patients in the home environment. This is also sometimes referred to as infusion pharmacy, as only injectable medications are dispensed, and not medication administered in other forms, such as oral or topical. They may major in one or the other area of illness, such as infusions for nutritional support, chemotherapy, mental illness or oncology.
Managed care pharmacy
Managed care pharmacy involves the planning and management of medication in health maintenance organizations, such as hospitals, nursing homes and extended healthcare centers.
Research pharmacists work on developing new drugs and profiling their actions, effectiveness, side-effects and interactions.
Specializations in Pharmacy
Some pharmacists may specialize in a certain area of drug therapy with a master’s degree or other continued learning. This helps them to gain proficiency and recognition to practice in specialized fields. This may include areas such as:
- Oncology pharmacy
- Nuclear pharmacy
- Geriatric pharmacy
- Personal pharmacy
- Nutritional support pharmacy
- Hospice pharmacy
- Pediatric pharmacy
- Pharmacy benefit manager
- Poison control pharmacy
Each of these specializations is a type of pharmacy in its own right, although such pharmacists usually practice in a hospital pharmacy. Their unique knowledge base makes it possible for them to provide medical information in particular relevant situations.
Reviewed by Dr Liji Thomas, MD.
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2016