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Our Picks on the Top 10 Traits of a Highly Effective Pharmacist

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Being a pharmacist can make for a rewarding medical career: The pay-to-hours ratio provides an attractive quality of life. The duties allow for meaningful interactions with patients. So much so that – time-and-again – pharmacists are cited as one of the professionals Americans trust the most.

So what makes for a good pharmacist? In the interest of wit and brevity, we’ve narrowed it down to what we feel are the ten most important attributes:

10. Good memory:
Though this is the beginning of being an effective pharmacist – not the end – being able to remember drug nomenclature, side effects, and interactions between pills – is a sometimes-life-and-death prerequisite for the job.

9. Ability to accurately interpret prescriptions:
Though this may sound trite, we all know how legible doctors’ handwriting can be (sorry, it’s still true) so one can see why a patient would be happy to deal with one of the only professions whose training literally includes education on interpreting the phrasing, intent, and – yes – handwriting of prescribing doctors or nurse practitioners. No wonder pharmacists routinely rank among the most trusted professionals in the world.

8. Detail-oriented:
The last thing a patient wants is someone who gets as mixed-up about their medication as they do themselves. Pharmacists must stay on top of every minute detail of a patient or risk overlooking how an existing condition of medication might have disastrous side-effects with a new drug they are about to begin taking.

7. Is a business person
Especially paramount with retail pharmacists and even more important for those who own their own pharmacy and/or the building in which the pharmacy is located: A good retail pharmacist has an appreciation for the business aspects of the profession.

6. Serves as a front-line educator
A neighbourhood pharmacist may be the only medical professional many people can afford to see. As such, a pharmacist is often an educator on a number of medical fronts, including how to take and stay healthy on medication.

5. Knowledgeable
Pharmacists committed to continuing education to keep abreast of the latest drugs, their benefits, side-effects, and interactions, are more likely to be effective in other areas of their jobs as well.

4. Kind
We have this higher up on the list than some of the other items you might have suspected for two reasons: 1) People often see a pharmacist after receiving bad news – to one extent or another – from a doctor and 2) People show up at a pharmacy to receive medication for a medical condition they are battling. A kind demeanor on the part of the pharmacist filling a prescription makes for a much more effective professional involved in the healing process.

3. Patience
Setting out to pick up medication for the first time – not to mention dealing with the insurance company – can ruffle a person’s feathers to the extreme. Effective pharmacists understand this and help both parties by remaining calm and staying patient.

2. Empathy
A similar trait that goes hand-in-hand with patience and kindness: More important – we feel – than either of the other two, an honest sense of empathy can help a pharmacist develop a keener sense of patience and kindness. Gaining a thoughtful understanding of what patients are going through also allows an effective pharmacist to ask the right questions to communicate to patients and clarify their concerns.

1. Humility
Think about your last visit to pick up medication at a pharmacy…Unless you were picking up the drug for the first time, you likely interacted with a cashier, the assistant to the pharmacist, likely everyone but the pharmacist (and you were probably lucky if you even saw the pharmacist.)

Of course, the pharmacist is always there: One of the things that stuns us consistently is the modest, unintimidating air of these modern-day alchemists. Perhaps it’s the washing away of the stress of the doctor’s office at an endpoint that has some sort of hopeful next-step (i.e. you have a condition but now here’s the help for it.) But either way, we are indebted to all the competent pharmacists out there who have learned that a little humility can be as powerful as the most tried and tested medication.


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