A clinical pharmacist ensures that the correct medications are provided to improve patient outcomes and support patient safety. Clinical pharmacists also act as a primary source of information on the safe, appropriate and cost-effective use of different medications.
If you become a clinical pharmacist, you’ll work closely with healthcare professionals and take a more direct role in guiding and managing patient care. While traditional pharmacists are mainly responsible for dispensing medicine and providing more general advice to patients, clinical pharmacists work on helping to improve individual treatment outcomes and tracking patient health progression.
In this article, we’ll explore more of what a clinical pharmacist is, their responsibilities and how to become one.
What does a clinical pharmacist do?
A clinical pharmacist has a wide range of responsibilities that all contribute to improving the quality of patient care, outlined below.
Advising other professionals
Often working as part of a multidisciplinary team, clinical pharmacists advise and support other healthcare workers to provide patient services. These may include screenings, diagnosis and managing long-term health conditions. They consult others on appropriate medication and dosages and also advise on the correct administration. Depending on your role, you may specialise in a clinical area like geriatrics or oncology.
Prescribing and informing patients on medication
Clinical pharmacists give patients personalised, face-to-face advice on their medication and might also prescribe medicine. When discussing long-term conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis and type 2 diabetes, a clinical pharmacist can educate patients on healthy lifestyle changes to adopt.
As well as looking at the efficacy and suitability of medicines being prescribed, clinical pharmacists can take a comprehensive look at how all of a patient’s medications are working together. They may also conduct health checks such as taking blood pressure, or schedule appointments for further tests, such as blood tests.
Monitoring patient progress
Reviewing patient records and evaluating conditions is an important part of the job, as clinical pharmacists need to form a comprehensive picture of a person’s health and determine the correct ongoing course of action. This role is integral to developing effective medication plans that minimise the risk of adverse side effects, so continually monitoring patient health is vital.
Clinical pharmacists work together with the wider healthcare network, so if untreated health problems are identified while monitoring patients, they can be referred to appropriate physicians.
Contributing to research, development and optimisation
Clinical pharmacists also help to influence the future of patient care, in collaboration with healthcare professionals such as physicians and nurses. They assess the results of pharmaceutical treatments, maintaining accurate documentation around medication plans and patient responses, to contribute towards developments and optimisations within medicine.
Studying clinical trials and performing medical tests are also responsibilities that clinical pharmacists can perform, which are essential to supporting new advances in medicine.
Where do clinical pharmacists work?
Clinical pharmacists usually work in GP practices, hospitals, healthcare trusts and community pharmacies. You can also be employed by pharmaceutical companies.
As a clinical pharmacist, you can work across a variety of clinical areas or specialise in certain areas of medicine. For example:
You can become an oncology specialist clinical pharmacist, working in cancer units of hospitals or at dedicated cancer centres, supporting patients in the treatment of cancer and helping with cancer research.
If you move into the area of ophthalmology, your work as a specialist clinical pharmacist could take place at eye units, theatres or ophthalmology clinics.
You might want to focus on mental health services as a clinical pharmacist, working in inpatient units of hospitals, residential care settings or outpatient clinics.
If you wish to move into academia, you can pursue a Ph.D. and work for universities and other institutions. You can still practise pharmacy alongside this.
How to become a clinical pharmacist
To become a clinical pharmacist, you’ll need to study medicine at university and gain a master's degree in pharmacy (MPharm). This comprises a five-year teaching programme, with both academic and clinical-based learning. The entry requirements for these university programmes are usually three A-levels (or equivalent) including one in chemistry, along with an A-level in a second science or mathematics.
Sometimes, vocational qualifications are accepted by universities, including BTEC Level 3 programmes, National Extended Diplomas in Applied Sciences or Access to HE Diplomas.
You’ll have to register with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPHC) to be able to practise. Previous NHS experience is often beneficial if you are pursuing clinical pharmacist roles.
Valuable skills for clinical pharmacy roles
Employers like to see certain attributes when recruiting for clinical pharmacist roles.
Valued skills include the following:
Confident communication, both verbal and nonverbal, with patients from all walks of life and professionals at different seniority levels
A high level of empathy when informing patients about their health or supporting colleagues
Research and analysis skills for the development of medication therapy as well as the interpretation of results and findings
Good attention to detail when keeping records and other vital documentation, or choosing the right medicine
Strong decision-making skills when working with other healthcare workers or selecting appropriate medication
Looking for a clinical pharmacist job opportunity?
At Maxxima, you’ll find rewarding opportunities that help take your career to exciting new places. We have more than 20 years of experience supporting healthcare professionals and pride ourselves on building long-term relationships with leading clients. With preferred and sole supplier status at numerous NHS hospitals and healthcare organisations, we can connect you with roles you won’t find anywhere else.
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