Queensland Health offers employment opportunities for hospital pharmacists and hospital pharmacy assistants in a range of roles and settings, from major hospitals in large cities through to smaller hospitals in rural areas and community health services.
The role of hospital pharmacists
Roles of the hospital pharmacist can vary to suit the organisation and clinical needs of the hospital pharmacy. The majority of hospital pharmacists provide clinical services in their area of specialty however, they can apply their skills in other roles including directors of pharmacy, procurement officers, hospital pharmacy consultants. Many hospital pharmacists specialise in areas of practice such as oncology, haematology, compounding and medicines information after acquiring clinical skills and knowledge specific to an area of practice.
The Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia has formally recognised 26 areas of specialty practice in Australia.
Education roles are also prevalent such as lecturing pre-registered trainees, delivering presentations to other medical staff or providing tutorial support to undergraduate pharmacy students.
Hospital pharmacists ensure the safe and effective use of medicines by:
- carrying out medication reconciliation on admissions and during changes in the level of care. Many hospital patients require complex and specialised medicines which are often not seen outside a hospital. These patients rely on the hospital pharmacist for information to ensure they know how to use their medicines. This is a vital aspect of the provision of healthcare, as it can reduce medication errors and hospital readmission resulting in an overall improvement in patient satisfaction.
- working in multidisciplinary teams with other health professionals such as doctors and nurses to advise on prescribing and address medicines-related problems.
- dispensing medicines.
- compounding and manufacturing medicines when ready-made preparations are not available.
- conducting medication chart reviews, therapeutic drug monitoring and managing adverse drug reactions to ensure medicines work as required.
- providing comprehensive counselling to patients when they leave the hospital, to ensure patients leave with their medicines, updated medication list and medication management plan to aid the transition back into the community.
- undertaking and contributing to hospital-wide governance activities through medication safety and Quality Use of Medicine activities, eg drug use evaluations, stewardship programs for high-risk medicines.
Activities beyond clinical patient care include:
- educating and training healthcare staff at various levels and patients about medicines management, common drug interactions and appropriate medicines administration
- providing specialised services in medicines information, procurement, quality assurance of medicines
- working at the forefront of innovative and experimental care by investigating medicines in clinical trials.
Hospital pharmacy assistants
Hospital pharmacy assistants work under the supervision of hospital pharmacists in dispensing and preparing medicines in hospitals for both inpatients and outpatients, and play an important role in the delivery of hospital pharmacy services and quality patient care. Hospital pharmacy assistants are qualified with a Certificate III or IV in Hospital/Health Services Pharmacy Support, or have equivalent training and experience.
As hospital pharmacists progressively transition from non-clinical dispensing and medicine supply roles to clinical and patient-centred roles, the role ofpharmacy assistants is expanding to support advancing hospital pharmacy services.
The role of hospital pharmacy assistants
Traditional roles of hospital pharmacy assistants include:
- maintain hospital ward imprest
- assist in the delivery of medicines and supply across the hospital
- enter discharge prescriptions and medication orders into hospital pharmacy dispensing software and prepare medicines to be checked by hospital pharmacists
- compounding and manufacturing injections, infusions, mixtures, creams and ointments for patients
- support communication channels between hospital pharmacists and other health professionals
In Australia, appropriately qualified pharmacy assistants in some facilities (at the discretion of pharmacy management) may also perform some clinical tasks carried out at the patient bedside to optimise the use of medicines and improve health outcomes, including:
- identifying discrepancies between medication orders and items in bedside drawers
- screening medication charts for changes
- assisting hospital pharmacists with medication reconciliation and medication chart reviews of patients
- basic medication counselling.
Additional roles in non-clinical settings may include:
- performing final checks on medicines in ‘tech-check-tech’ activities.
- managing roles (managing a team, performance reviews, KPIs etc).
Pharmacy assistants may be required to undertake validation or credentialing in specialised activities such as compounding (non-sterile, aseptic, and cytotoxic), procurement, inventory management, provision of ward-based supply, tech-check-tech or clinical support roles, clinical trials etc depending on institutional or state-based legislative requirements.
Registration requirements for pharmacists
To work as a hospital pharmacist in Australia, individuals must be registered with the Pharmacy Board of Australia.
For people in Australia, this involves completion of a pharmacy program of study approved by the Pharmacy Board of Australia (or a substantially equivalent program) at university. A pharmacist must then obtain provisional registration with the Pharmacy Board of Australia, start supervised practice (in an approved intern training program) and pass the Board’s registration examination. An individual can then apply for general registration with the Pharmacy Board of Australia.
Comprehensive information on the general registration pathway, pharmacy registration types and registration standards are available on the Board’s Registration page.
Internationally qualified pharmacists
Pharmacists who qualified overseas in a country other than New Zealand are required to pass an examination conducted by the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) and complete a period of supervised practice assigned by the Pharmacy Board of Australia. As directed by the Board, the pharmacist must complete any further prescribed assessments before applying for general registration. More information for overseas graduates is available on the Board’s Overseas Practitioner Registration page.