There are many abilities needed to be a successful pharmacist. Amongst these are scientific ability, the dexterity necessary for laboratory work, the ability to recognize colors and textures, computer skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, thoroughness, accuracy, orderliness, and alertness to business changes and pharmaceutical advances. While pharmacy schools can teach some of these skills, other skills may be more indicative of personality styles.
Students looking to enter pharmacy school need to complete prerequisite courses in science. While this information can surely be learned, an aptitude for the sciences is an ability beneficial to the pharmacy student. Additionally, in the pursuit of their degrees, pharmacy students spend quite a bit of time in the laboratory, and dexterity is necessary for the performance of this kind of work.
Because pharmaceuticals are made in different shapes, colors, and textures, someone interested in pharmacy must be able to tell the difference between these nuanced differences. Two types of medications could look very similar to an untrained eye, but they may have slightly different hues, patterns, or sizes. The ability to detect these differences could prevent a patient from receiving the wrong medication.
Basic computer skills are necessary in most jobs today, and pharmacy jobs are no different. Computers are used to keep track of inventory, research, and patient records. Without the ability to access this information, the pharmacist will have a much more difficult time performing his or her job.
Many pharmacists come in contact with patients on a daily basis. It is critical for patients to be able to ask questions of their pharmacist and to feel comfortable doing so. The pharmacist should seem confident in his or her knowledge and exude an attitude of being willing to help. He or she needs to be able to listen not only to the patients’ questions but to their overall health problems to arrive at the best answers for them. Communicating this information is also critical. The pharmacist needs to communicate information about medications, including dosage, timing, whether the medication should be taken with or without food and/or water, and the route of administration (e.g., oral versus topical). If this information is not communicated to the patient, serious adverse reactions could occur. The pharmacist must have the interpersonal skills to relay this information to the patient clearly, and the communication skills to do so effectively.
In a typical pharmacy work environment, the pharmacist is surrounded by row after row of different medications. Organization and orderliness are important to ensure that medications are not switched and so that stock can be easily accessed and inventoried. Work spaces need to be kept orderly as well, since these may be areas where medications are dispensed or mixed. It is important for the pharmacist to be thorough both in filling prescriptions and in evaluating a patient’s medical history. Most patients believe it is their pharmacist’s responsibility to catch any potential drug interactions. Above all, accuracy in pharmacy is of ultimate importance. The correct amount of medication must be dispensed, the dosage instructions must be correct, and the correct medication must be dispensed. Accuracy in pharmacy can, very literally, be a matter of life and death.
Due to the constant evolution of drug therapies, it is important for the pharmacist to be alert to pharmaceutical advances. It is also important for the pharmacist to be alert to changes in business. If a local pharmacy closes, a remaining pharmacy may see a huge influx of business. Without the appropriate stock, former patients of the now-closed pharmacy may go elsewhere. It is important for the pharmacist to have an understanding of his or her local competitors and to try to offer services unique to his or her site. For instance, some pharmacies dispense vaccinations for influenza and pneumonia, while others do not. Additionally, when generic medications become available, it is important to stock those items, as their demand may suddenly be high. Alertness to newly available medications for certain conditions is also important.
Pharmacy schools can teach one the scientific knowledge necessary to become a pharmacist, but other skills, like natural scientific ability, dexterity, and communication skills, might not be teachable. For someone looking to enter this field, these are important factors to consider. The ability to recognize textures and colors, computer skills, thoroughness, accuracy, orderliness, and alertness to both business changes and pharmaceutical advances are all qualities needed by pharmacists.