The Pharmacist’s Role
Pharmacists are the drug therapy experts of the health care team. Their role in the healthcare system has changed significantly over the past few years, particularly with the expansion of their scope of practice, which allows the pharmacist to focus on the clinical aspects of direct patient care.
While pharmacists are still responsible for managing the overall pharmacy environment and overseeing dispensing, they now focus more on reviewing prescriptions for therapeutic appropriateness, performing medication reconciliation and medication reviews, developing care plans and monitoring patients. The care plan is often focused on taking steps to resolve or prevent drug-related or health-related problems. Depending on the province or territory, the pharmacist may accomplish this by performing an expanded scope of activities such as adaptation of prescriptions, prescribing for minor ailments, ordering or interpreting laboratory tests and administering drugs, including injections for immunization or other purposes.
The scope of practice differs depending on the province or territory. For instance, in some provinces, pharmacists are granted the authority to prescribe, adjust or substitute medications under specific guidelines and conditions.
As the population of Canada ages, people are living longer but also with more chronic conditions. The need for healthcare providers in Canada is expected to grow, and the role of the pharmacist will continue to change and evolve. Medical research and science are also advancing very quickly, and new drugs and treatments are developed every year. Pharmacists must be aware of the need for continuing education to learn new things and develop new skills and abilities. Continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential element of a career in pharmacy.
This chart outlines the scope of practice across the country. It includes information for pharmacists working for the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Pharmacy Technician’s Role
Pharmacy technicians are a regulated profession in most Canadian provinces.
Pharmacy technicians have an expanded scope of practice that allows them to more effectively assist pharmacists so that the pharmacist can take on more clinical, patient-focused services. The scope of practice of pharmacy technicians can be slightly different in different provinces.
The pharmacy technician may gather patient information for the pharmacist to review; order, receive and manage inventory; perform computer order entry; and prepare products including compounding, counting, measuring and labelling. Depending on the province or territory, the pharmacy technician may also perform expanded scope activities such as medical device demonstrations, transcribing verbal orders, transferring prescriptions, checking the technical aspects of a prescription and releasing the final product.
Regulated pharmacy technicians assume responsibility for their own actions, are accountable to the public and contribute to the overall functioning of the pharmacy to ensure a safe and healthy environment.
The following chart outlines the scope of practice across the country. The pharmacy technician profession does not currently exist in Quebec.
There are two parts to becoming a licensed pharmacy technician in Canada.
- Obtain the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) Pharmacy Technician Certificate of Qualification; and,
- Meet all the requirements set out by the pharmacy regulatory authority (PRA).
Licensure requirements for pharmacy technicians and pharmacists are not the same. Completing the licensure process as a pharmacy technician will not impact nor shorten the licensure process as a pharmacist.
The Pharmacy Assistant’s Role
Pharmacy assistants are other members of the pharmacy team who help support pharmacy technicians and pharmacists.
They can perform certain tasks assigned to them by the pharmacy technician or pharmacist, but always do so under the direct supervision of the pharmacy technician or pharmacist. These may include tasks such as filing of pharmacy records, replenishing supplies and putting away drug orders. This may also include more advanced tasks such as computer order entry, counting, packaging, labelling and sometimes compounding of products if the pharmacist or pharmacy technician supervising them assigns them these tasks and verifies their work.
Pharmacy assistants cannot transfer prescriptions, take verbal orders, check prescriptions or release product.