Pharmacy delusion: are pharmacists acknowledged abroad?
The pharmaceutical section of this blog has been so far posted only in Czech. I often receive questions from people interested in studies of pharmacy and I always share my opinions on the web to make it reachable also for the other potential applicants. Recently I received a very interesting question. A full answer might easily turn into a book. Since it reached even behind the walls of the Faculty of Pharmacy, I decided to share my views also with the English using readers.
The question was: In the Czech Republic, one often hears the opinion that pharmacists are only sellers or over-the-counter passers of medicaments/boxes. What is the general opinion on pharmacists abroad? Do they have "prestige"?
Well, I have several experiences with the life abroad (even though some are rather shorter). And at the moment I am collecting some more in the Netherlands. And I had also worked in a pharmacy for couple of months. However, it has never been a pharmacy in a foreign country (except of a two-weeks stay in a Macedonian pharmacy, which I will mention again.) I do not seem to be appropriate enough for responding such questions. However, I hardly ever miss a chance to explore the pharmacies while I am abroad. At least what can be seen from outside. Here I share some of my general observations and opinions.
The Czech Republic has a tendency to take over world trends in many different fields and pharmacy is actually no exception. For instance, the (partly) self-service pharmacies have become very popular recently. The junction of a pharmacy with a drug store is now quite common worldwide. (Unfortunately, one must say.) I have seen it in the US (there it was far the most awkward experience), in Sweden, Italy, Portugal and even here in the Netherlands. The preparation of various ointments, capsules and medicinal solutions within a pharmacy starts to be slowly overshadowed in the CR. Even though it is still a part of a pharmaceutical practice. I am not entirely sure whether this is happening due to the external influences. However, as a matter of fact, the so called "galenic formulation" directly in the pharmacies is not very common in the Western countries in general.
With the previous paragraph, I intended to point out, that for an outside observer, the work of a pharmacist consists of handing over the pills, indeed. If you do not have a friend or someone from your family working in a pharmacy, you can probably hardly imagine that a pharmacist is actually a (wo)man with a university degree. That (s)he knows about the medicaments much more than "use three times daily after meal" which (s)he reads from the prescription. Although it has to be said that a lot of pharmacists create this dark shadow above their work simply by the way they behave and treat the patients. But that is a different story.
From what I have seen and from the conversations I have had with my friends and colleagues, I can say that the reputation of pharmacists abroad is evenly bad as of those in the CR. People usually do not know, what being a pharmacist actually means. They somehow feel that it is not just about "handing over the boxes" and reading the prescriptions, but some do not hesitate to talk about the pharmacists in that way. However, to emphasize again, these are my observations from being outside of the pharmaceutical practice.
When I was mentioning the pharmacies in the previous text, I meant those from the private sector. The situation gets different with the hospital pharmacies and changes radically when talking about the clinical pharmacists. The latter have not gained a strong position in the Czech Republic so far. Yet, they can be very much appreciated abroad. For instance, they have a very good reputation in the UK.
Briefly, clinical pharmacists are people with a pharmaceutical education, who consult therapy with the patients and the medical doctors in the hospitals. The double-check of drugs prescription and administration decreases amount of the side effects and interactions and alleviates the problem of polypragmasia in geriatric patients (i.e. overuse of medicaments in elderly patients). Moreover, it advantageously influences the economy of a hospital by reducing costs on medication, which would be used with no positive effect at all. A friend of mine mentioned his wife preparing for clinical pharmacist exams in the US recently. From what I have heard, it is not a piece of pancake. To wrap this up: one can be very much appreciated as a pharmacist abroad, if working in a clinical practice.
Pharmacy students from all over the world have also the opportunity to explore how pharmacy field works abroad through the IPSF (International Pharmaceutical Students' Federation). In more detail I mention the Student Exchange Programme on my website when writing about my stay in Macedonia.
In the end, I would like to point out that for a successful comparison of pharmaceutical prestige in various countries, one must not forget about different levels of education as well as the real content of a pharmacist work. Unfortunately, I am not an expert on that. Nevertheless, I actively use my eyes and ears and sometimes that helps to create an image of how things work.
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