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Critical Care Pharmacist: Education and Career Information

Pharmacy has always been a lucrative field to pursue. As the medical landscape continues to evolve, the critical care environment has expanded to increase the role of pharmacists, making them an essential part of decision-making, pharmaceutical education initiatives, and the health care team. This is a role that requires extensive knowledge of the specialization, which includes rigorous coursework and training.

What does a Critical Care Pharmacist do?

A critical care pharmacist assists the healthcare team and physicians in pharmacotherapy, provides pharmacokinetic consultation, offers medical education to the health care team, monitors patients for safety and drug efficacy and are a crucial element to the success of any critical care unit. Critical care pharmacists work to ensure the safety and effective use of medications for critically ill and injured patients. They also work hard to assess and analyze information based on patient history and reaction to make decisions on intricate medication regimens. The role of a critical care pharmacist is extensive and includes a number of skill set. They are known to be utilized as educators, researchers, managers and clinicians.

How much does a Critical Care Pharmacist earn?

Pharmacist salaries vary depending on function, experience and location. An average pharmacist earns about $108,000. Pharmacists who work for research and pharmaceutical companies can earn a significantly higher salary. Critical care pharmacy is a practice specialization, which requires enhanced study and work. On average, the starting salary for this position is about $115,920, which can significantly increase based on location and experience.

What types of skills are needed to be successful in this field?

This role is consistently changing, so there are quite a few skills needed to succeed:

Ability to communicate clearly: Critical care pharmacists usually work directly with physicians and decision-makers on complex medications and techniques that will benefit critically ill patients. It is important to communicate well so that everyone can work cooperatively for the best solutions.

Research, writing and teaching skills: This is an essential component of the job. A pharmacist is first and foremost a researcher, who is able to assess when a medication is not working and collaborate with the team to find viable solutions. Being able to document and write the findings in a clear and cohesive manner, and teaching the staff on a number of different treatments is key.

Attention-to-detail and a good memory: As a critical care pharmacist, the little details count. Every prescription or dose of medicine is crucial in ensuring the needs of each patient are met.

Strong science and math: Math and science classes are essential components of a pharmacy program. A thorough understanding of the elements needed to determine what dosages and medicines that can be combined takes in-depth knowledge and a well-rounded scientific background.

Experience in preparing drugs: Although a critical care pharmacist has a number of roles to perform, the basis of the entire job is the knowledge and dispensation of medicine. You must have extensive experience in this area to do your job productively and efficiently.

Drug knowledge and assessment: It is important to know how to assess different medications. Having an extensive knowledge of drugs used in critical care situations is important to assist the physicians in the proper care and treatment of patients. Staying on top of the latest research and developments is a major component of drug knowledge.

Ability to work with others: Working with a team of people is a key role of a critical care pharmacist in making decisions, assessing situations and teaching others. A personable approach is always helpful in getting the job done.

Ability to supervise others: You must be able to supervise staff members when formulating plans to ensure they are correctly administering medication and doing their jobs correctly. In this role, you wear a number of hats, so having supervisory skills is a must.

Administrative skills: Technology is at the forefront of every profession, and being able to properly organize documents and use different machines and software is an integral part of the job. Having a good set of administrative skills will go a very long way.

Internship requirements

In the medical field, internships are often called “completing a residency.” Although most students in the pharmacy field will have a standard residency requirement, critical care has become so popular that medical schools have now designed critical care residency programs to accommodate those students who wish to pursue this career path. The residency helps develop research skills, clinicians with expertise in pharmacotherapy for critically ill patients, and how to work as part of a multi-disciplinary care team. Experience includes an active participation in patient management rounds, the instruction of pharmacy staff and completion of two major presentations, which award ACPE accreditation. Students are exposed to surgical and medical intensive care, cardiovascular surgery and critical care, pediatric intensive care, oncology, toxicology and emergency medicine and more. The residency is usually a two-year program.

Education requirements

Becoming a pharmacist takes a lot of time and effort. Unlike most medical degree programs, you can enter into pharmacy school with just two years of undergraduate coursework under your belt. The student must complete a pre-pharmacy program, or complete the coursework, which includes classes in physics, chemistry, biology and calculus. Once accepted into a pharmacy program, the real work begins. Pharmacy school is a four-year commitment, which will result in a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. The coursework for this program includes classes like toxicology, disease treatments, patient care, medicinal chemistry, biopharmaceuticals, pharmacy ethics and others. After completing the program, students must sit for a licensure exam.

Critical care is an added specialization, which requires additional coursework, specifically during the residency training program. Once the Doctor of Pharmacy has been obtained, students must sit for the Critical Care Pharmacy exam, administered by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties to be eligible for certification in this area. A relatively new certified specialization; the first exam will be administered in the Fall of 2015.

Eligibility for the exam:

•Graduation from an accredited pharmacy program.
•Current and active pharmacy license.
•Four years of experience after licensing with at least 50% spend in critical care.

-Or-

Students who have completed a PGY1 residency with 2 years of experience, or a PGY2 residency in critical care pharmacy are also eligible.

This is a lucrative, but demanding career choice. If your goal is to make an impact in the field of advanced pharmacy, becoming a critical care pharmacist would be a good start.

Pharmacology Scholarships

Tylenol Future Care Scholarships Express Scripts Foundation American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Foundation Student Scholarship
American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) Student Leadership Awards Allied Healthcare Scholarship American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) Scholarships
National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Foundation Scholarships Indian Health Service (IHS) Scholarship CVS Health – Pharmacy School Scholarships
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