When it comes to long-term care facilities, there are certain precautions that need to be taken. Drug therapies in these environments are often hindered by other prescriptions that are administered to patients. Pharmacists have to be aware of patient's’ ongoing treatments at the facility, and how decisions about medication will affect the overall goals and outcomes of the patient’s particular case. For example, patients at drug and rehabilitation centers may be unable to take certain narcotics, and the elderly in assisted living facilities may have other drug regimens that limit what can be offered for new or congruent ailments.
What is a Long-Term Care Pharmacist?
A long-term care pharmacist provides ongoing support and care to patients in a variety of facilities and settings, specifically in areas where patients are admitted or treated over longer periods of time than during regular office visits. This may include skilled nursing centers, rehabilitation facilities, long-term care pharmacies, and nursing homes. The long-term care pharmacist will likely work with an aging demographic, though there are long-term care facilities that work with residents that are not elderly. Those may include treatment centers for specific diseases, or for developmentally challenged residents, or even for the incarcerated. According to research published by Pharmacist.com, a pharmacist in these settings will be involved in the following:
Special consideration is also given to drug interactions among elderly patients. In general, long term care pharmacists work with vulnerable populations that need additional considerations and care in order to benefit from drug therapies.
Occasionally, the term “long-term care pharmacist” is used interchangeably with the term “consultant pharmacy”. Both of these roles of pharmacy emerged from the need to better plan and facilitate long-term drug therapy, while taking into consideration drug interactions and assisted living environments, including psychiatric hospitals, hospice program and community-based care facilities.
Educational Requirements for Becoming a Long Term Care Pharmacist
The minimum educational requirement for becoming a long-term care pharmacist is a Pharm.D. degree with some specific training in a long-term care setting.
Step-by-Step Educational Path to Becoming a Long Term Care Pharmacist
The importance of working hard at the undergraduate level cannot be overstated when it comes to becoming a pharmacist. Successful completion of undergraduate courses can prepare the student for entry into pharmacy school, and assure success during advanced pharmacy courses when obtaining their doctorate. The work and effort put in at this level can make the rest of training and education smooth and significantly less stressful.
One of the main things to be aware of at the bachelor level is that specific courses are required as pre-requisites to get into pharmacy school. Planning these courses during undergraduate semesters is important to make sure that extra time and money is not needed to meet the requirements. Since most of the pre-requisite courses are science-based, a large majority of incoming pharmacy students major in science at the undergraduate level. Courses like biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus, and composition are all included in most science curriculums and will help the student reach their goals of obtaining entry into pharmacy school.
In addition, students should plan to prepare and take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) during schooling. This test is designed to make sure students have the basic academic and scientific knowledge that is required to succeed in pharmacy school. Each pharmacy school publishes their minimum PCAT scores, so students can work towards making their application competitive by scoring above the minimum. Students should be aware that minimum PCAT scores do not usually represent the incoming student average, and striving for the best possible score is the only way to create a competitive application.
The four years of pharmacy school are designed to give the individual a deep understanding of drug interactions, uses, and the sciences behind the many types of medical therapies that are prescribed. The first two years are generally filled with course and lab work, while the second two years open up internship or externship opportunities. Students who wish to work in long-term care facilities can look for externships that will provide them with long-term care pharmacy experience.
Upon completion of pharmacy school, pharmacists must obtain state licensure, which differs from state to state. Usually state licensure includes an exam, continuing education requirements, and fees. Obtaining and maintaining licensure is of utmost importance, as a revoking of licensure, and/or suspension of practice is possible.
On the Job Experience
Long-term care pharmacists do not have specific experience requirements, in regard to fellowships or residencies. On the job experience under the supervision of a long-term care pharmacist is the best way to go. Over time, the pharmacist will learn what/how drugs interact, how and what to provide patients, limitations at their place of work, their patients specific needs, and more. Long-term care pharmacists gain a more intimate relationship with their patients as they provide on-going care, and engage in daily interactions with their patients and with the rest of their care team.
Understanding the Career Path
A partial list of the type of long-term care settings a long-term care pharmacist may find employment, includes:
In each of these settings the long-term care pharmacist provides consultation services that decrease the chance of adverse drug interactions, and monitor prescriptions to eliminate the excessive use of medications or duplicative drug therapies.
A long-term care pharmacist averages $116,000 per year. This pay is based on experience, length of time at a facility, responsibilities as part of the care team, location, and type of care they are providing. For the most part, a long-term pharmacist can expect to dose and distribute medication, and educate, as well as consult and monitor patient reactions to drug therapies.
Benefits for a long-term care pharmacist can include: