Opportunities Abound for Health-Systems Pharmacists

Author: Alicia L. Rybovic

Alicia Rybovic is Associate Editor of Pharmacy Times.


Health-systems pharmacy, as a profession, has evolved significantly since its beginnings in the 1920s and 1930s. Prior to the 1920s, hospital pharmacy did not play a significant role in the pharmacy profession. After several advancements, in 1942, hospital pharmacists founded the american society of Hospital pharmacists, which was recently changed to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists to reflect changes taking place in the hospital industry. A career in health-systems pharmacy today presents the graduating pharmacy student with a wide range of both professional and personal growth opportunities.

 

A great example of the benefits a career in health-systems pharmacy may bring can be illustrated by Kaiser permanente. Founded in 1945, Kaiser’s roots trace back to World War ii, when tens of thousands of workers arrived in the Kaiser shipyards in richmond, california. Henry J. Kaiser had a dilemma—how would he provide health care to this great influx of workers? His solution was to deliver prepaid group health care, which eventually opened to the public after the war, and today, Kaiser permanente is the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plan, serving more than 8.6 million members in California, Colorado, District of columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington.

Under the Kaiser Permanente umbrella is Kaiser Permanente Colorado (KPCO). KPCO is an integrated health care delivery system that has been providing comprehensive health care to patients for more than 40 years. it serves approximately 490,000 members in the Denver/Boulder and Colorado Springs metropolitan areas. In ongoing discussions related to health care reform, Kaiser permanente has been cited as a model of high-quality, cost-efficient health care. KPCO uses an electronic medical record (EMR) system, which has been in place for over 10 years, explained Beth Chester, PharmD, MPH, BCPS, senior director of clinical pharmacy services and quality. This EMR system allows pharmacists and other health care providers to access information, including patient records, 24 hours a day. In addition, they operate a pharmacy automated refill center, which fills roughly 40% of total prescription volume.

KPCO offers pharmacists a wide range of career opportunities. Opportunities are available in Pharmacy Operations, Pharmacy Support Services, and Clinical Pharmacy Services. Chester explained that pharmacists working in an outpatient setting typically dispense medications, conduct clinical screenings, participate in patient education and counseling, make OTC recommendations, and compound. Clinical pharmacy staff participate in varying patient care activities, such as consultative, direct patient care, and population management. Specialized positions for pharmacists are also available in Pharmacy Benefits and Pharmacy IT.

A career at KPCO has numerous benefits, including an excellent salary and benefits package and support for continuing education, board certification, and professional memberships. Once working at KPCO, pharmacists have tremendous opportunities for both lateral movement and formal advancement. For many positions, KPCO only requires an entry-level pharmacy degree; for clinical pharmacy specialist positions, candidates must meet a few more prerequisites, including a PharmD degree, completion of a postgraduate year 1 (pGy1) and pGy2 residency (or equivalent experience), and board certification.

Health-systems pharmacy has developed over the years into a sweeping profession, with opportunities abundant for the graduating pharmacy student. finally, chester highly recommends, from a KPCO perspective, the completion of a residency program, and states, “the skills you develop help differentiate you from others in the profession and position you well for future career opportunities.” In today’s ever-changing pharmacy environment, it is important to have flexibility, strong communication skills, and a focus on teamwork.