Alex Dar Santos: We are all clinical pharmacists

Updated on July 16, 2021 (Originally posted on August 16, 2018) The Tablet

As my term as President comes to a close, I would like to thank the Board of the BC Pharmacy Association for their work this past year.

I find myself reflecting on what we have achieved, what new challenges have arisen and what we as pharmacists face in the future. Certainly as the profession continues to evolve, pharmacists will become even more vital in primary health care. It is also nice to finally get some recognition by the government for the role pharmacists play in primary health care with their recent announcement of putting 50 pharmacists in primary care teams in the next three years.

Thoughts of the future led me to think about a recent trend I’ve noticed, which is the use of the term ‘clinical pharmacist.’ I find myself somewhat amused by this term, given how freely it is being used, yet how very few people seem to be able to define what a ‘clinical pharmacist’ does and how it differs from what most pharmacists do. Which begs the question: What do they do that I don’t?

If you were to look up ‘clinical pharmacist’ online, you would find the following definition: “Clinical pharmacists work directly with physicians, other health professionals, and patients to ensure that the medications prescribed for patients contribute to the best possible health outcomes.”

When I read that definition, I thought to myself, ‘Wait a second, I do those things! I know many pharmacists that do these things!’ Have we been short changing ourselves? Are we, as pharmacists, once again not promoting ourselves for what we do? Is this another case of excessive pharmacist humility?

Certainly, there are varying levels of clinical work. But it is common for pharmacists to discuss topics such as A1C results or lipid values, for example, with patients and physicians. Or to discuss alternative drug treatment due to interactions, side effects or inadequate results. Or to conduct a thorough medication review and identify drug therapy problems, which is addressed by working with the patient and his or her health-care team.

So maybe this is just a passing fad and a new catchphrase will creep into the pharmacist’s lexicon soon. Or maybe this really is the future of pharmacy. But for now, do me a favor and update that name tag of yours to say ‘clinical pharmacist’... because that’s what you are. 

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