What is a community pharmacist?
The community/retail pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals for your health needs. Community pharmacists review and dispense medications for patients in the local area and communicate with the patient’s providers to adjust therapy. They also work with insurance companies to ensure financial coverage and consider the best affordable medication options. They can be located in grocery and retail stores and are responsible for the legalities of running a pharmacy business.
Community pharmacists may provide services unique to their setting as well. For example: they can work in chain pharmacies (i.e. Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, etc), specialty pharmacies, independent pharmacies, outpatient pharmacies to a hospital, managed care, compounding pharmacies, and more. In this field, one can choose to be a pharmacy store manager, pharmacist in charge, or registered pharmacist. Retail pharmacists are required to be knowledgeable on a wide range of drugs for both retail and hospital settings.
The work of a community pharmacist can be demanding. They are expected to be on their feet for the majority of their shift and may have to lift hundreds of bottles and boxes every day. They must meet customer and management demands and have strict timelines for filling prescriptions – pharmacists are often pressured by customers to fill their prescription as soon as possible. On top of this, pharmacists also need good human relations skills as they interact with patients who come in asking for information, advice, or to pick up a prescription.
Being a community pharmacist can be extremely rewarding. They are a part of making a positive impact in the community’s long and short term health and get to see their patients progress through time with each pickup and consultation.
Statistics (as of 8/2021):
- Average pay: $57.66/hour ($119,924/year) with top 10% earning 135,000+
- Qualifications: PharmD
- 60.7% White, followed by 26.4% Asian and 6.3% Black or African American
- 53% Female; 41% Male
- Majority located in: New York, NY and Chicago, IL
- Most in demand: St. Louis, MO
Average Retail Pharmacist Salary By State
Now let’s get into the interview!
KN the Community Pharmacist
How many years have you been working as a community/retail pharmacist?
How did you get your job after graduation? Was there networking in getting this position or did you point-blank apply on a listing?
I was already working in the company as an intern. Before graduation, I did the grad intern interview and got the pharmacist position but back then it was easier if you were a good, dedicated employee. If you worked hard with the company as an intern, you could get a job internally. Nowadays working years as an intern throughout pharmacy school doesn’t guarantee you a position.
Explain a bit about your job and what you do.
I prepare and dispense medications, counsel patients about how to use medications and what to expect and warn them about possible side effects, administer vaccines, and much more. I call patients to ensure they are adherent to their medications, refill on time, and for medication therapy management . I also make recommendations with over-the-counter medicines and consult on general healthcare issues.
What do you like about your job? And not like?
Some days, I don’t like that I can’t focus on being a pharmacist. The main reason why I became a pharmacist is to take care of patients. There are a lot of demands and distractions from corporate management expectations and customer service that I can’t focus on patient care. Patient care vs customer service are two different things. When one overpowers another, you lose focus on patient care because you have more on your plate that removes you from your core values of a pharmacist.
What I like is being the first person of contact when someone needs help because I am the most accessible. If I can save them a doctor’s trip, a hospital trip, and money expenses from medications, then I feel satisfied. It’s always rewarding when patients come back and feel better. Immunizing for COVID has been really hectic but I feel like we’re doing a huge part for our patients and the world. As a community pharmacist I can go volunteer at off site clinics and help out where I can.
Are all retail sites equal?
No, it depends on the area, city, and state. I feel like the workload in New York is larger, market is super competitive, and more difficult compared to, for example, Ohio where there might be a better quality of life. There’s been budget cuts, short-staff, and more technician/pharmacist turnover.
What advice would you have for pharmacy students who are interested in this career path?
If you meet good people along the way like other students, teachers, mentors, coworkers, always nurture and build good relationships with them because you will meet again in the future in the same field or another field; you never know when your paths will cross again. Try to network and explore your options while you’re a student. For those who want to pursue community pharmacy, have a lot of patience, thick skin, empathy, and stamina.