Hospice Pharmacist: Education and Career Information
The role of a pharmacist goes beyond traditional settings. There are many specialized positions that focus on certain areas. If you are interested in the dispensation of medicine and treatments for individuals who are at the end-of-life stage, or very elderly, becoming a hospice pharmacist may be a role for you.
What does a hospice pharmacist do?
Hospice pharmacists are general pharmacists that have a specialization on hospice services. They dispense medications, emergency pain medications and compound alternative dosage forms for medications to ensure patients are comfortable at all times. They also provide personalized services and stat deliveries. This is a clinical position that uses their judgment in the selection of medications that will assist patients in their treatment plans. They work in conjunction with the physician making recommendations and suggestions on the latest drugs that may be of use. They can offer educational sessions on medication and disease, as well as administrative support. You will find hospice pharmacists working in hospice centers, elderly care facilities, assisted-living facilities and in the hospital setting. A hospice pharmacist is responsible for the monitoring, supervision and modification of plans designed to treat patients.
How much does a hospice pharmacist earn?
According to SimplyHired, the average hospice pharmacist salary is around $77,000, but can go as high as $90,000 depending on location, facility, education and experience. This is a fairly new position that is now in the forefront of the profession and is expected to continue to grow. According to the BLS, the market for pharmacy professionals is expected to increase by 14% through 2020.
What skills are needed to become a hospice pharmacist?
A hospice pharmacist must have the same skill set of a general pharmacist, but the concentration is on servicing patients who are ill and in most cases, elderly:
Research: Research skills are very important as a hospice pharmacist. They must be able to work directly with other physicians and communicate their findings on the latest treatments that may benefit the patient in developing treatment plans that work.
Clinical history: It is important for hospice pharmacists to understand the clinical history of their patients. They must be able to determine what medicines did not work to recommend new medicines that may have a better impact on reducing the symptoms and pain of their clients.
Chemistry: It is essential to know the makeup of certain drugs and what alternatives can work in their place. Understanding how these concoctions is an important part of their role in administering medication.
Math and statistics: Pharmacists must understand how important calculations and the ability to read data is in working with hospice patients. Math plays an integral role in how much of one medication should be mixed with another to prevent dosage mistakes and other situations that can occur if the numbers are off. Consistent and accurate calculations are imperative in working with patients.
Management: A pharmacist must be able to manage a number of projects and situations at once. They wear a number of hats and must keep a level head at all times when working.
Collaboration: Taking a collaborative approach when working as a hospice pharmacist is key. In this environment, they will work closely with healthcare practitioners in attempting to get the best results for patients in their treatment plans. Communicating and collaborating with other doctors is a necessary task, as well as dealing with pharmaceutical reps and other agencies that can positively contribute to patient care.
Most internship requirements include a two-year residency program in a clinical setting that is approved by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. There will be an additional year of practice in a hospice facility for clinical hands-on experience. The number of hours required in this area will largely depend on the school and their requirements.
When students are aware of their aspirations to become a pharmacist, they can get a head-start on their career path while still in high school. Coursework that would be beneficial is chemistry, anatomy and physiology and biology to get a clearer understanding of the chemical makeup of drugs, how the body reacts to those drugs, and the composition of the human body. After finishing high school, the next step would be to enroll into a bachelor’s degree program. Seeking a school that has a pre-pharmacy program would be beneficial in providing the pre-requisites needed for entering pharmacy school.
Pre-pharmacy coursework includes:
•General chemistry with a biological focus
•Fundamentals of biology
•Fundamentals of biology
There are a number of pharmacy schools that will accept students in their junior year of college, but it is a good idea to remain in the bachelor’s degree program until completion. Candidates for pharmacy school must take and pass the PCAT, or Pharmacy College Admissions Test before their senior year of school to send the information to the pharmacy schools of their choice.
A pharmacy program is usually four years, with clinical practice. This will help them earn the doctor or pharmacy degree, or PharmD. Internships and specialty coursework will follow. After completion of the program, candidates must then take the state licensing exam to become a licensed pharmacist. During this time, students should prepare to complete the two-year residency in their specialized field with one year of supervised clinical practice.
After completion of the clinical internship, candidates must take and pass any specialty examinations required to be recognized as a specialist in hospice pharmacy. At the present time, coursework in the field is acceptable and recognized as a qualifier.
Working in a hospice pharmaceutical setting takes a high degree of compassion and understanding for individuals who are going through one of the most difficult times of their life. This can be a rewarding career path that can reshape your mindset. Working with physicians, patients and families who are in this environment adds an additional layer of respect to the profession and contributes to personal goals of helping others.