Wherever there are people, there are pharmacists. We like to say that pharmacy is a degree of opportunity, because whilst it has some clear, focused graduate outcomes, it allows for movement into careers at every level of healthcare.
Further, pharmacy roles are evolving to better meet healthcare and community needs, as well as adapt to advances in technology. By the time you graduate, your job could look more like what is detailed in the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s recent report: Pharmacists in 2023: Roles and Renumeration.
Aged care pharmacist
Older people often have complex needs when it comes to medications. They are frequently taking a number of different medications and can be more susceptible to side effects. They may also need adjustments to their medications to accommodate difficulties with vision, hearing, memory or cognitive function.
Clinical trials pharmacist
Pharmacists in this area support the management and delivery of clinical trials of new medicines. The role involves coordinating studies from a medicinal perspective, ensuring that drugs used in the trials are imported, stored, accounted for, compounded, dispensed and used in accordance to strict protocols. It may involve liaising with hospital staff, counselling participants and carers, and educating medical and nursing staff.
Complex care coordinator
A relatively new career path, complex care coordination involves working with a hospital healthcare team and is often combined with consultant pharmacy work. The role involves providing early post-discharge medication review and follow-up plans for patients identified as being ‘high risk’ by hospital clinicians.
Accredited consultant pharmacists conduct home medicines reviews and residential medication management reviews. As with many roles, consultant pharmacists often work part time undertaking medication reviews, while also working in other healthcare settings such as working at a community health centre, working with chronic disease management groups, or providing nurse education.
Drug safety officer
Pharmacovigilance is an area focusing on monitoring drug safety. A pharmacist working as a drug safety officer liaises regularly with government and industry bodies, consumers and other healthcare professionals. Their responsibilities include receiving and processing reports of adverse drug events and conducting regular conciliation with health authorities. They use their skills and qualifications to ensure the public has access to safe and reliable medications.
Pharmacy graduate Cathie Reid is an award-winning business woman that has a vision for pharmacists to play a significant role in the emerging digital health arena. Take a look at where pharmacy has taken her.
Primary care pharmacist
A practice pharmacist doesn’t dispense medicines. Instead, they work within a general medical practice to deliver direct support to general practitioners, practice nurses, and patients. They can often give more time and attention to individual cases, providing quality care and specialised services such as smoking cessation.
Public health advisor
Pharmacists have knowledge, skills and experience that can contribute to advisory roles, both for the government as well as non-government institutions, such as health funds and private hospitals. The range of possible roles in this area is extensive, including medicines access, public health, developing eHealth services and more. Pharmacy graduate Daniel Gilbertson is just one example of a pharmacist in an advisory role, his story is below.
Hospital pharmacy involves a lot of collaboration as you find yourself working closely with a team of other healthcare professionals doctors and nurses, to provide the best care for patients. According to the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA), “…it offers variety, both in the roles you can have, such as clinical [i.e. direct patient care] or management, and in the types of hospitals you can work in – city or country, small or large, general or specialist.” Working as a hospital pharmacist helps you develop valuable skills that are highly sought after in other pharmacy settings. Many pharmacists will spend some part of their career in a hospital environment.
Regulatory affairs associate
Working in regulation involves ensuring the appropriate licensing of and legal compliance by pharmaceutical and medical products. Following this career path, you are involved in ensuring that a company’s products comply with regulations and legislation.
Researcher / Academic
Many students find their passion for research while studying and go on to make a career of exploring and developing ideas in pharmacy. Through research and evaluation, pharmacists can make a huge practical difference to health policy and services. Common research areas for pharmacy graduates include pharmacy practice, pharmacotherapy, drug discovery, toxicology, clinical sciences, public health and much more. Below, Professor Simon Bell discusses how pharmacists are making a contribution to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specialty practice pharmacists
There are many different types of specialty practice pharmacists, below are just a few of the most common.
Mental health pharmacist: Mental health pharmacists in hospitals are responsible for providing clinical pharmacy services to the adult mental health in-patient wards, and psychiatric assessment and planning units. It is a highly specialised career path that includes managing the supply of anti-psychotic medications to mental health patients in government units, outpatient clinics, community centres and specialist hospitals.
Women’s and newborns’ pharmacist: Providing safe and effective dosing and administration of medications during pregnancy and for infants is the focus of the role. One of the biggest challenges can be assisting in the care of babies born prematurely. But it is also a highly rewarding area to work in; a skilled pharmacist can play a crucial role in giving a baby a better chance at a healthy life.
Antimicrobial steward: Antimicrobial stewardship is a vital role in any hospital and health facility, with responsibilities that include promoting the appropriate use of antimicrobials (including antibiotics), reducing microbial resistance, and decreasing the spread of drug resistant infections. View Misha's story below.
Pain educator and consultant: Chronic and acute pain are fascinating areas to work in. Pain management is a constantly evolving field that encompasses many areas of treatment, not just pharmacy and pain medications. Pharmacists work with pain sufferers to manage their medications and coordinate other forms of treatment.Pharmacist in the field
Pharmacists are found in all different types of communities, including within the defence force. Use your pharmacy training to serve your country on missions at home or abroad.
Pharmacy and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic will cause pharmacy to evolve in ways yet to be seen, however it is also affecting pharmacy practice in the short-term. Current pharmacy student Amelia discusses her unique pharmacy job servicing quarantine hotels.