The changing role of the pharmacist in the 21st century
Fundamentals of the role
Are the fundamentals of the role of the pharmacist well understood? In an environment of increasing public expectations, workforce pressures, and significant scientific and technological advances, it is important to define the contribution the pharmacist makes not only to the healthcare team but more widely. Without clarity on the pharmacist’s role, we cannot effectively select, educate and train pharmacists, or plan for the future pharmacy workforce.
Attempting to create a generic definition of what it means to be a pharmacist is fraught with difficulties. Much seems to depend on context — the sector of work, the pharmacist’s career stage and experience. Furthermore, a role cannot be defined in isolation without considering the inter-relationships with other professionals. However, the drive for a flexible, adaptable workforce that can meet the health demands of an increasingly older population with multiple long-term conditions means that there is greater working across professional boundaries, and professional roles inevitably become more homogenous. Although taking on new roles can be enriching, there is also a danger that a profession can lose its way, or worse, lose its identity. Poorly defined professional role boundaries can also become a source of conflict and there is a risk that the best interests of patients and public are not served. The role of the pharmacist must be congruent with the roles of others such as doctors, nurses, pharmacy technicians etc. The nature of authority and responsibility between these relationships should be clear as should what the formal and informal expectations of one another are.