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What is a Junior Hospital Pharmacist and What Do They Actually Do?

Something I am asked all the time is “what actually is a junior hospital pharmacist?”

The term junior pharmacist is not very well understood even by those within the pharmacy profession.

I worked as a junior pharmacist for the NHS for about 2 years before specialising and working my way up to my current role as an Advanced Specialist Pharmacist in ILD and Integrated Care.

This article should help you to understand the roles and responsibilities that come with being a junior hospital pharmacist in the UK.

Requirements

You can become a junior pharmacist once you have completed your MPharm or equivalent as well as your foundation training year. At this stage, you can apply for a junior pharmacist post which is generally only available in hospitals. The term junior pharmacist is not commonly used within community pharmacy and primary care.

What does a junior pharmacist actually do?

As a junior pharmacist in the hospital can expect to rotate between the dispensary and various wards. In general, these are the roles and responsibilities you will normally have:

Checking prescriptions for errors

As a junior pharmacist, you will often be based on a ward and have the responsibility of ensuring that medication is safe and effective for an individual patient. This could involve checking the medication is given in a suitable form, strength, and dose. You are also required to check the patient’s latest observations and blood tests including liver and kidney function to ensure the appropriate medication is being administered.

Medication reconciliation

When patients are admitted to your ward you will check what medications they were taking prior to admission including prescribed medicines and OTC and herbal products. You will also check if there are any medicines that have not been prescribed whilst they are an inpatient and if there is a particular reason for this. Another responsibility is to ensure any critical medication such as insulin or anti-epileptics are ordered in a timely manner.

Answering questions from other healthcare professionals

Other members of the multi-disciplinary team will approach you with questions as you are the expert on medicines within the team. The types of questions you could be asked include those relating to altering doses of medication based on kidney function, interactions between different medications, and recommendations for patients who are unable to take medicines orally.

Implementing trust guidelines

Your role involves ensuring that the national, local, and hospital guidelines are being implemented appropriately. This requires you to read and be familiar with how hospital guidelines can vary from national guidelines. An example is where there is a high level of resistance to a certain antibiotic within your hospital therefore another is selected as the first-line treatment even if this varies from national guidelines.

Approving discharge prescriptions

You are responsible for checking that patients are discharged from the hospital appropriately. This involves checking they are discharged with the correct medication, that the discharge letter is accurate, and that they have been counselled on any new medications or dose changes.

Training members of staff

You can be involved in training less experienced members of staff, including foundation trainee pharmacists. You are responsible for teaching them how to conduct themselves on a ward, how to order medication, complete discharges, and any other processes that you go through on a day-to-day basis.

As you can see, the junior hospital pharmacist role is a highly varied and changing one which could see you move between different wards in the hospital on a weekly basis.

The role is an excellent place to get your foot in the door and from there you can discover which clinical areas you find most interesting and may want to specialise in later in your pharmacy career.

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