By Frieda Wiley, PharmD, BCGP, RPh
Ever wonder what pharmacists do exactly? Many people see us stand behind a counter filling prescriptions and assume that’s all we do, but the answer is not quite that simple—or obvious. We’re actually able and willing to help you in more ways than most people realize.
As a pharmacist who has worked in a variety of settings, I can tell you there are many things that we wish people knew about their pharmacist – here are a few of them:
1. We’re looking out for you. Every time we look at a prescription, we check to make sure the medication is safe and appropriate for your needs. This includes determining whether the dose is too high or too low, checking to see if your insurance covers your prescription, or if there are some other problems. We’re also trying to make sure that you’re getting the right drug, so that’s partly why we or our staff may ask you a series of questions to verify your identity. Otherwise, how can we be sure that your prescription is for the 37-year-old Mary Jones who lives off Broadway and not the 62-year-old Mary Jones who lives off Clark Street?
2. We’re not ignoring you by keeping our heads down. Typically, we do this when things get busy because even the smallest distraction can cause major mistakes. If you have a question that requires more than a quick response, try stopping by during the pharmacy’s less-busy hours. Different pharmacies’ calmer periods vary, but they could be early in the morning, late in the evening, or any day other than Monday. Give it a try. We’re happy to help.
3. We get frustrated with insurance companies, too. We want to make sure you get the medications you need, but that can be challenging when insurance companies don’t cover certain medications or we have to cut through a lot of red tape. When we’re tied up with insurance issues, we have less time to counsel people, recommend products, and verify prescriptions so you don’t have to wait so long to get your medications.
4. We can help you determine the best next step. People sometimes come to us when they’re unsure whether they need to go to the emergency room, seek urgent care, or a general doctor’s attention. We can also help you figure out which doctor or other qualified medical professional you should see to manage certain health challenges. Some pharmacists even provide education on nutrition, dietary supplements including vitamins and herbals, and general wellness. However, you probably won’t know about any of these unless you ask.
5. We can’t diagnose a condition, but we know medications inside-out. We leave the diagnosing to the doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants, but once you have a diagnosis, we are happy to give you some solid recommendations on treatment.
These are just a few key things we pharmacists wish every patient knew about us, but the list goes on. So, the next time you see a pharmacist, consider us a resource in healthcare system. You’ll be glad you did.
Frieda Wiley, PharmD, BCGP, RPh is a board-certified, clinical pharmacist, contract medical writer, and consultant. She has nearly 100 publications to her credit, including Arthritis Today, US News & World Report, Everyday Health, MedPage Today, and Clinical Cardiology Advisor. She is currently doing a research fellowship at the Lloyd Library in Cincinnati, Ohio. To read more about Frieda, visit her website, or follow her on Twitter.