off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Pharmacists as an important
member of healthcare team



Pharmacists are considered as an important member of the healthcare team. They play a vital role in patient safety, medication safety, avoiding medical errors, and adverse drug event besides drug interactions. They also play an important role as members of the Pharma Therapeutics Committee in healthcare facilities and accompany doctors on ward rounds . However, in Pakistan, pharmacists are still struggling to find their identity, recognition and decision making authority. In fact the problem lies in their education and training which is deficient in many respects.

During the last ten years there has been a mushroom growth of private medical and dental colleges and some of these institutions have also started pharmacy classes as an appendix without proper faculty. The result is production of a large number of pharmacists with B. Pharm and D.Pharm degrees but highly inadequate training.  Even the quality of faculty in pharmacy departments in public sector pharmacy institutions also leaves much to be desired. The pharmacy graduates, they are producing hence suffer from inferiority complex, they are reluctant to talk and communicate with the doctors and they lack confidence and trust in themselves.  They may have some theoretical knowledge but they are not fully conversant with the pharmaceutical production, quality control and quality assurance as they lack practical experience and so is the case with the faculty members most of whom have never worked in pharmaceutical industry or run and managed pharmacies in healthcare facilities. As such, mere degrees of B.Pharm or D.Pharm are nothing unless they acquire adequate practical knowledge and experience. The pharmacists also needs to take care of ABC i.e. improve their Attitude, Behavior and Communication Skills if they wish to get empowered and attain decision making authority.

It is heartening to note that some of the representatives of the pharmacists are fully aware of these deficiencies among the pharmacy graduates and the problems the pharmacist’s community is confronted with were correctly diagnosed by a number of speakers at the recently held annual conference of Pakistan Society of Health System Pharmacists. Hence now they need to concentrate on their training through workshops and seminars or small group discussions. Revisiting and revising the pharmacy curriculum and inducting visiting faculty from pharmacists working in the pharmaceutical trade and industry as well as Drug Control Departments can go a long way in  making up the deficiencies in teaching faculty. Currently a vast majority of the pharmacy graduates join the Pharma industry in production, quality control while some go into marketing.  Some get jobs as Drug Inspectors but there is hardly any significant number of the pharmacy graduates going into community or hospital pharmacy where there is lot of scope. Just like medical and dental colleges, majority of the students getting admission in pharmacy schools are also girls and under the present circumstances and environment, they won’t feel comfortable working in community pharmacy.

In view of lack of job opportunities at home, a large number of these pharmacy graduates are going abroad and this brain drain needs to be checked by creating job opportunities for them within the country. The onus is also on the pharmacists themselves. They need to get appropriate training, become all rounder’s so that they can be welcomed by the hospital owners and healthcare facilities. This will not only ensure patient safety but also go a long way in ensuring optimal drug therapy, medication safety and minimizing drug interactions as well as adverse drug events. Once they are knowledgeable, the doctors will listen to them and accept their interventions and advice in prescriptions. Without knowledge, experience they should not expect any recognition and no one will realize their importance. As such, they must get going and enhance their knowledge, develop leadership qualities. Some of the pharmacists who have equipped themselves with these qualities are enjoying not only respect and recognition by the medical profession and healthcare facilities but the government functionaries also respect them and are always eager to benefit from their knowledge and experience.

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