Becoming a pharmacist
Pharmacists have at least five years of university education that includes rigorous education in physiology, microbiology, pathophysiology, clinical biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and pharmaceutical care. Many pharmacists undertake additional post-graduate training to become certified as diabetes or asthma educators, and some specialize in areas such as geriatrics and menopause.
Ontario now offers pharmacy programs from two sites: Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto and the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo. The focus in the four-year degree program is on developing therapeutic knowledge and clinical skills. Details are available at the Ontario College of Pharmacists web sites www.ocpinfo.com and www.worthknowing.ca.
For students interested in additional training, there are several options. A one-year residency program in a hospital or community practice setting offers continued development of clinical skills. A one-year residency program in the pharmaceutical industry offers insights into the operations and responsibilities of pharmaceutical manufacturers. There are also postgraduate courses leading to Masters in Pharmacy and Doctor of Pharmacy degrees. Following graduation from the university program, there are licensure requirements that must be met before a pharmacist can practice. These requirements include a structured practical training component and successful completion of a national examination by the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada. The license to practice within Ontario is granted by the Ontario College of Pharmacists. See the College web site for more information regarding licensure and the role of the College.
Pharmacists practice in a wide range of settings where they are valued for their skills, knowledge, expertise and judgment. One of the most visible roles is in the community pharmacy, where the pharmacist oversees the dispensing of medications, provides medication information, supports wellness goals, and monitors and discusses therapy to identify and address drug-related needs. Pharmacists work in other settings, including hospitals, where they work closely with physicians and nurses toassess the impact of medication use and helpmeet therapeutic goals. Other roles exist within the pharmaceutical industry, in areas such as marketing, regulatory affairs and medical information; and in teaching, government, research, associations, and the Canadian Armed Forces. GlaxoSmithKline's Pathway Evaluation Program can help evaluate pharmacy career options.
Most roles for pharmacists involve frequent contact with patiens and helping them address important healthcare needs - a satisfying role for many practitioners. Salary and benefits are good for graduates and experienced practitioners: income ranges vary depending on the role and the type of practice site.
Among other things, good pharmacists:
- are people-oriented, and enjoy helping others
- maintain high ethical standards
- demonstrate precision, accuracy and attention to detail
- understand people's needs and can empathize with others
- are diligent in fulfilling responsibilities
- are energetic, enthusiastic about their roles
- develop competency in entrepreneurial skills
- have highly developed oral communication skills
- Ontario College of Pharmacists
- International Graduate Pharmacy Program
- Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto
- Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo
- Pathway Evaluation Program
For further information contact the Ontario Pharmacists' Association at (416) 441-0788.