The Emerging Role of the Pharmacist

There is a certain chemical process that occurs somewhere deep in the brain of individuals that I meet casually at galas, museum openings, or at the Chick-fil-a where I really hang out.  The obligatory “How are you?” is uttered by myself and the other party summarily followed by the standard “So, what do you do for a living?”

“I am a pharmacist.”

Now, no one has ever told me that I don’t look like a pharmacist or that they are shocked I am not in the NBA, but it is at this point in the conversation where I usually get a semi-sideways head tilt followed by a slow nod and then, “Oh, ok!”  Once my conversational counterpart comes to terms with my occupation and my extreme good looks (not pharmacy related) I get an array of questions that generally follow a similar pattern.

“What can I take for this runny nose?”

“Why did my medicine go up in price?”

“My insurance won’t pay for my blood pressure pills anymore.  What do I do?”

While I love to answer these important questions and others, a concern of mine underlies our back and forth.  Maybe pharmacists as a profession are doing a poor job of communicating what we do besides dispensing to the public.  Maybe we talk more amongst ourselves about our desire to be a healthcare resource for our patients than with our patients.

Ask any pharmacist, especially one who has been practicing for decades, the pharmacy game has changed dramatically.  Dispensing has always been the mainstay (and still is) of the profession, but in the last 10 or 15 years pharmacists have also taken on vaccination as a critical component of pharmacy practice.

With cough and cold and flu seasons in our near future, you will most likely visit a local pharmacy at some point over the next few months.  While you are waiting you will witness flu vaccines being administered right there at the pharmacy to well individuals (let me remind you here that the flu shot is the best way to avoid getting the flu and it will not make you sick!)

Pharmacists, though, are not limited to giving only flu vaccines.  We can also administer pneumonia, shingles, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis, meningitis and a host of other vaccines all without a prescription.  Traveling abroad?  You may be advised to visit a pharmacy to receive the appropriate vaccines required by your destination country.  Pharmacists undergo continual training related to immunizations and are valuable resources when it comes to determining if you are eligible or not to receive a particular vaccine.

Medication therapy management is another initiative embraced by pharmacists nationwide.  Participating insurance plans pay for face-to-face and telephonic medication reviews where side effects, cost-savings opportunities, adherence problems, duplicate therapy, therapy omissions and more can be addressed before a trip to the doctor or hospital is needed.  In a day and age where healthcare costs are dominating much of our political conversation, this proactive approach is the future.

Of course, pharmacists are still available to help with practical things like helping you figure out your blood glucose meter, questions regarding compounded or specialty products and helping you select an over-the-counter product to fix what ails you.

Pharmacists are pharmacists because we love to help people.  If you don’t already, imagine your pharmacist as part of your healthcare team.  We genuinely value your wellness and offer many services to keep you that way.  Get to know your pharmacist and you’ll begin to experience their authentic desire to meet your healthcare needs.  See you at Chick-Fil-A.  

Matt Baker, PharmD
Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy – Lufkin, TX