When most people think of the word “doctor” they think of a medical doctor, or physician (such as a primary care physician, surgeon, or psychiatrist). While pharmacists are not medical doctors, who provide medical diagnoses and treatments, most have obtained a doctoral degree in pharmacy to become a pharmacist. This is why you may end up seeing “Dr.” in front of a pharmacist’s name.
Prior to the year 2000, pharmacists obtained a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, but in 2000 it was mandatory for pharmacists to achieve a doctorate degree in pharmacy (PharmD). The PharmD degree is a professional doctorate and requires many years of schooling to achieve. Most pharmacists will spend six to eight years in higher education after high school to obtain their PharmD degree. Many pharmacists will continue further education in training by completing a pharmacy residency program or fellowship for one or more years following their formal education.
Read our blog – May I Speak To A Pharmacist
While pharmacists do not diagnose illness or perform surgeries, which are the role of medical doctors, pharmacists are experts in medication knowledge. The pharmacist maintains expertise in understanding medications, drug interactions, and ensuring safe and effective use of drugs. Pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care professionals because you have a pharmacist available at your local pharmacy for advice. Pharmacists can provide advice to patients, including over-the-counter medication recommendations, side effect education and management, recommendations for preferred medications, and counseling on most any medication or vaccination related question.
You may have thought pharmacists only work in the retail setting (such as at your local pharmacy) and only perform the role of dispensing medications. However, pharmacists wear many hats and are in more places than you think. There are pharmacists in nearly every health care setting you can think of, including primary care or specialty clinics, hospitals, infusion centers, long-term care centers, and skilled nursing facilities, just to name a few. Pharmacists are a resource for medical doctors and other health care providers. Pharmacists help answer drug therapy questions and are often integrated into the health care team, mostly working behind the scenes with your provider.
While pharmacists are not medical doctors, they do have doctoral-level training in their field and play an important role as a member of the health care team. Can a pharmacist refuse to fill a prescription?
Pharmacy (Basel). 2019 Sep; 7(3): 98. Published online 2019 Jul 20. doi: 10.3390/pharmacy7030098