The first thing I learned about hospital pharmacies

The first thing I learned was that hospital retail pharmacies are very different from chain pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS. I learned that being a retail pharmacist at a hospital has much less stress attached to the job than many other health professionals working in the hospital.

Both pharmacists I shadowed had come from large, retail chain pharmacies, where they had many more customers and a lot more stress. I asked the technician, what made her want to become a pharmacist. She told me that she had been working at one such chain behind a cosmetics counter but saw the pharmacists and how they helped people and wanted to become a part of that.

Being a pharmacist involves a lot of patient interaction, helping give them their prescription medications and also teaching them how to use certain medical interventions such as inhalers. However, they also do a lot of business work. Retail pharmacies are businesses after all, so they have to make sure they are making money, not losing money.

On a daily basis, job duties include counting pills, filling out prescriptions, administering flu shots (2nd picture), and checking manufacturers to make sure they make the most profit.

pill inventory
Pill inventory

I got to see how pharmacists complete prescription orders and the process behind it that makes sure there are no mistakes. Certain drugs that are classified into different “schedules” based on their danger (likeliness to become addictive) are protected by a vault that can only be opened with a fingerprint scanner and patient information (1st picture).

They also showed me how to count pills, which is important to keep track of inventory. Each time a patient needs pills from a certain bottle, the number of pills taken out is counted and subtracted from the previous total so the pharmacists always know how many are left in the bottle.

flu shots
Flu shots

(I asked permission to take these pictures, of course!)

Overall, I really like this job. It incorporates math, science, and technology, and I really like the idea of combining those three areas. Retail pharmacy also involves patient interaction, so I would feel like I am really helping patients firsthand.

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