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The hospital pharmacy career conundrum

By Irish Pharmacist - 25th Jun 2021

Closeup pharmacist hand holding medicine box in pharmacy drugstore.

25th EAHP Congress 2021

The Congress also heard from Ms Helena Farinha of Egas Moniz Hospital-Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Ocidental/Portuguese Pharmaceutical Society, and Dr Steffen Amann of Munich Municipal Hospital Group, who addressed the attendees on the topic, ‘Hospital Pharmacy Career — By Design or Left to Chance?’ Ms Farinha said: “The environment in which pharmacists operate is changing rapidly. It is influenced by science, which drives the development and delivery of medicines, but [also] by population changes, by workforce demands of healthcare, and so pharmacists will have many roles.

“They will have patient-facing roles in hospitals and the community, medicine development, academic, regulation, scientific and leadership positions, as well as other roles,” said Ms Farinha. However, whatever the role, it will always be patient-centered and will impact the individual patient and the public overall, she said.

“The 21st Century pharmacist will lead the development of new medicines and their approval and lead in the distribution and optimisation and in using the best available evidence,” she told the congress. “They will be recognised as patient-focused leaders in pharmaceutical research and development and the introduction of new medicines, and they will be recognised for the highest level of education received and high level of digital literacy and cost-effective impact on healthcare delivery and economics.”

This century’s pharmacist will also have an important role in clinical decision-making and as part of a multidisciplinary team, will be acknowledged as the professionals with the best knowledge of medicines and their use and the focus for support for clinical decisions around medicine. Going forward, and to achieve the optimum use of pharmacists, they will need to have a mastery level of a complex set of skills and knowledge. It is challenging, if not impossible, for students to achieve this mastery level at the time they graduate — residencies will need to become the norm for all graduating students, said Ms Farinha.

These residencies will be necessary to ensure they develop the clinical competence and mastery knowledge to be successful in evolving and complex healthcare systems that are focused on patient outcomes and quality measures, she added.

She referred to an EAHP statement, which pointed out that the basic education of five years for pharmacists… “does not provide sufficient competencies to work independently in the hospital environment and postgraduate education in the hospital setting, preferably of four years’ duration”, with final assessment of individual competency essential. In addition, the lack of EU mutual recognition of hospital pharmacy as a structured specialisation creates substantial differences in the qualifications of pharmacists working in hospitals across Europe and creates inequalities in patient access to the best possible care.

She provided an overview of hospital pharmacy in Portugal and told the attendees: “The criteria for determining the formative suitability of each health establishment and services, defined by each pharmaceutical society, are mandatory and should be established across Europe. Mutual recognition of structured specialisation qualifications of hospital pharmacists across Europe will narrow gaps in their qualifications, creating equality in patient access to the best possible care.”

Dr Amann provided an overview of some of the perspectives in career planning, both personal and organisational, such as academic and practical goals, strength of an organisation, and quality of services, for example. He also provided an outline of the pharmacy education system in Germany and while there are pharmacists who are highly motivated in terms of clinical tasks, there is a shortage of suitably-qualified people to manage hospital pharmacies, he said.

Dr Amann also spoke about the ADKA (German Society of Hospital Pharmacists) approach, which emphasises the need for detailed career training and provides for different training and career courses.

“Networking is also very important and it’s something that needs a long time to grow,” he told the congress. “Things that take a long time should be started very early and be given time to develop and grow.”

He outlined how his own career has developed, from a time when organisations were paper-based, and provided a brief outline of some examples of the career goals necessary to achieve success. “While some of my take-home messages are not universally valid, I think it’s very important to find your desire, your longing and your destiny, to know what you want to become, and to always remain curious,” he told the attendees. “Also, keep the balance between design and chance — it’s not one or the other, it’s both together.

“Start and time the relevant steps early — it’s important to start networking early,” he said. “Organisations should also enable and support the career options for their members by providing educational tools, especially soft-skills, and organisations should support or implement mentoring programmes and provide options for networking. This will be paid back for the organisation and for the profession itself.”

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