Oncology Pharmacist: Education and Career Information
Pharmacy is a very lucrative career, especially if you obtain certain specializations. While this can be an extremely stressful work environment due to the sensitivity and accuracy required, the knowledge of being able to help others in their recovery can make the difference. Taking the time to explore a career in oncology pharmacy may be more interesting than it seems. If you like science, chemistry, and biology, this may be a smart and lucrative career choice.
What does an oncology pharmacist do?
An oncology pharmacist has a number of roles to fill. They usually work specifically in the administration of medicines to cancer patients in their treatment plans. They use their judgment in the dispensation of these medicines, and are responsible for working with other physicians and medical professionals in dispensing information on the latest drugs available for use. An oncology pharmacist can also check on patients to see how the medicines are working, and supervises residents in the department when employed on a senior level. Ultimately, they are responsible for the recommendation, design, implementation, monitoring and modification of plans to treat patients with terminal diseases. They are viewed as an authoritative source on the best uses of medications that treat individuals with cancer. You will usually find these professionals in hospital settings, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but they also work for pharmaceutical companies.
How much does an oncology pharmacist earn?
On average, an oncology pharmacist makes around $110,000 a year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacy professionals are continuously growing and is expected to increase by 14% through 2020. The amount of earning potential in this position depends on the facility or organization where they work, the level of expertise and education, and the location.
What types of skills are needed to become an oncology pharmacist?
The skill level of an oncology pharmacist must be detailed and thorough. They must possess:
Research: Comprehensive research skills are very important as an oncology pharmacist. Knowing how to extract information on certain drugs and their effects can make a strong impact on the development of a treatment plan that works.
Clinical history: Oncology pharmacists must have the clinical knowledge to get the job done. This is a position where their clinical background must be integrated into their duties every day.
Chemistry knowledge: Knowing how different drugs work and their composition is important when recommending prescriptions for patients in their treatment plans.
Mathematical knowledge: Pharmacists must understand different mathematical calculations to administer the right dosage of medicines that are included in a patient’s treatment plan and medical regimen.
Management: It is important for an oncology pharmacist to be able to adequately manage a number of things at one time. They must be able to deal with patients, administer medications, consult with other medical professionals and monitor the effects of their recommendations.
Collaboration: Most cancer patients have more than one physician at a time who is dealing with a number of issues. An oncology pharmacist must be able to properly collaborate and communicate with other medical professionals to determine the right course of action, explain certain medicines and why they are recommending them, and in the monitoring of the patients to provide the best possible care.
Most internship requirements include a two-year residency program in oncology pharmacy in a clinical setting that is approved by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, plus one additional year of practice with at least 50% of the time spend in oncology pharmacy activities. Another internship route includes completion of four years of practice experience with at least 50% of the time spent in oncology pharmacy activities.
If a student realizes they want to become a pharmacist early on, they can start preparing in high school by taking chemistry, anatomy and physiology and biology to get a head start on understanding the chemical makeup of drugs, how the body reacts to those drugs, and the overall composition of the human body. Once they have finished high school, enrolling into a bachelor’s degree program is next. There are some schools that have pre-pharmacy programs that better prepare students for entering pharmacy school.
Coursework in a pre-pharmacy program includes general chemistry with a biological focus, fundamentals of biology, calculus, pharmacy orientation, organic chemistry and fundamentals of biology.
Most pharmacy schools will accept students during their junior year of college, but most students opt to remain in the bachelor’s degree program until they finish. 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.
Once accepted into pharmacy school, students will earn a doctor of pharmacy degree, which is a four-year program, with clinical practice. 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 oncology pharmacy, and one year in supervised clinical practice.
Upon completion of the clinical internship, candidates must take and pass the oncology certification examination given by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Board certified oncology pharmacists must recertify every seven years by either completing 100 hours of continuing education, or passing a multiple-choice objective recertification exam.
Becoming a board certified oncology pharmacist will raise the level of respect and recognition in the field from industry peers and significantly increase earning potential. Although a long and rigorous process to complete, becoming an oncology pharmacist can assist in saving lives and make a difference in the medical landscape and future of quality healthcare.