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The evolving role of pharmacists in healthcare

The evolving role of pharmacists in healthcare 1

According to the online career publication Zippia, over 313,000 pharmacists worked in the US in 2021. These professionals play a significant role in healthcare by dispensing medications to patients. However, today’s pharmacists face a very different professional landscape than previous generations as technology and advances in healthcare require these health professionals to play a more significant role in healthcare. The contemporary pharmaceutical landscape has led to the role of pharmacists expanding beyond simply dispensing medication. This landscape presents a new field to students, mid-career professionals and anyone else looking for career opportunities to delve into.

What exactly do pharmacists do?

In the past, the pharmacist was simply a medication expert. Their role in healthcare was to dispense medical products and disseminate information about them. However, while the primary function of the pharmacist remains the same, their roles have expanded considerably in other areas. Read below to learn more about the evolving role of pharmacists in contemporary healthcare.

How have pharmacists’ roles expanded?

Medication resource

With 90 percent of Americans living within five miles of a pharmacy, pharmacists increasingly take on the role of an informal resource. After leaving the physician’s office with their prescriptions, the patient goes to the pharmacist to get their medications. If the patient cannot meet with their physician for some reason, such as the patient requiring care on the weekend, the patient may go to the nearest pharmacy to purchase an over-the-counter remedy as a stopgap measure.

In these instances, the pharmacist becomes the first health professional the patient encounters, and in this way, they are a resource in dealing with their ailment. While pharmacists are not licensed to prescribe medications, they can help patients choose appropriate medicines by providing recommendations based on their needs. Typically, when a pharmacist makes a recommendation, patients listen to the pharmacist’s advice, which says a lot about the increasing role of pharmacy in modern healthcare.

Part-time clinicians

Outside of being a resource for patients when a physician is unavailable, pharmacists take on the role of a clinician. In some states in the US, pharmacists are doing some of the duties typically done in the doctor’s office. For example, patients coming down with the flu can visit their pharmacists in some locations to get tested for the flu virus and receive a prescription within 15 minutes, which in many cases is a drastic reduction in time compared with the usual doctor or emergency room visit. In some locations, pharmacists can also write refill prescriptions for certain medications.


In many instances, the pharmacist can educate the patient on drug interactions. They can provide additional insight into foods to avoid when taking certain prescribed drugs. In the case of diabetes, the pharmacist is knowledgeable enough about reading blood sugar levels to adjust doses for patients with issues.

They have also become gatekeepers to ensure that the patient leaves the pharmacy with the proper medication. They are not only responsible for double-checking dosage, strength, administration directions and any interaction information, but are also responsible for making sure that patients understand the directions given to them. Thanks to advancements in technology, the pharmacist can see other medications the patient has purchased from other pharmacies while making recommendations.


As the pharmacy field has evolved, subfields have emerged, including pharmaceutical research. Much of the research happens after the patient has visited the pharmacists. This specific subfield focuses on how patients access pharmacy services, how much these services cost and measures the improvements needed. These are just a few areas that pharmaceutical research touches upon because the area is quite broad, covering issues ranging from pre-formulation to regulatory approval.

Pharmacists play a role in pharmaceutical research by focusing on developing guidelines for prescribing medications. These standards serve as the basis for the continuing development and testing of drugs. The primary areas of interest, though, are manufacturing and formulation design.

Working in this area provides an opportunity to contribute to scientific journals, which can present the pharmacist with prestige in academic circles. This research also contributes to improving inefficiencies in pharmacy management and patient care. Finally, pharmacists involved with pharmaceutical research usually become well-versed in pharmacotherapy and clinical care.

As the field of pharmacy expands, what role can you play?

If you are thinking about a career in pharmacy, plan to spend between six and eight years in university. Once the required degree has been completed, an aspiring pharmacist must pass their licensing exams. Becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy requires committing to several years of education and training to work in this field, which is only occasionally possible for non-traditional college students.

Working professionals with long business days, returning students working part-time jobs, career professionals transitioning into a new career or single parents who need the stability of a full-time income but want to pursue a new field can pursue their professional aspirations through an online pharmacy degree program, such as the one offered by University of Findlay. This program provides a flexible pathway to a career in the pharmacy field.

Final words

In the next eight years, the pharmacy field is expected to grow by two percent, translating into 13,600 positions yearly on average. Many of these positions will be in grocery, general merchandise and drug stores. While these positions typically only require that drugs be dispensed, pharmacists may find themselves in other roles.

The field of pharmacy has expanded to the point that those who wish can move out from behind the counter to take on more active roles in healthcare. Whether that means being a resource for patients, educating them on their prescriptions, being a gatekeeper or taking on a more clinical role, pharmacists often play a more prominent role in administering medications and the products that pharmaceutical companies manufacture.

Research determines the types of products manufactured, which provides another route that can take pharmacists in a different direction. As a pharmacist involved with pharmaceutical research, you can take part in helping transform processes used to provide patients with access to quality treatments and improve healthcare.

Dorothy R. Ferry

Coffee trailblazer. Unapologetic student. Freelance communicator. Travel nerd. Music fan. Spoke at an international conference about donating magma for farmers. Had some great experience promoting saliva on the black market. Spent 2002-2009 lecturing about basketballs in Pensacola, FL. In 2009 I was writing about Magic 8-Balls in Miami, FL. Earned praised for my work importing crayon art in Hanford, CA. At the moment I'm managing sausage in West Palm Beach, FL.

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