From Hospitals to the Community: The Exciting World of Ambulatory Care Pharmacy

Ambulatory care pharmacy is one of the newer additions to the pharmacy specialties. The main focus is treating chronic diseases and conditions.

An ambulatory care pharmacist plays the role of therapeutic management. They choose therapeutic options for their patients and follow up on the outcomes.

What is an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist?

Ambulatory care pharmacists work collaboratively with physicians to manage patients in outpatient care settings. They often help patients manage chronic disease states like hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia.

These pharmacists also focus on comprehensive medication management for patients.

Ambulatory care pharmacists improve patient outcomes. They do this by monitoring patients and adjusting their medication use. This collaborative effort allows the ambulatory care pharmacist to have a major impact on prevention and wellness.

Where do ambulatory care pharmacists work?

Ambulatory care pharmacists can be found in primary care clinics as well as in a community setting. This includes community pharmacies and chain pharmacies, as well as outpatient clinics and hospitals.

How to Become an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist

To become an ambulatory care pharmacist, one has to qualify to be a pharmacist first. This includes a degree and other qualifications.

Education

All pharmacy schools don’t necessarily have the same educational requirements, but they are pretty similar. It’s important to be aware of what exactly is required for you to gain admission into your chosen pharmacy degree program.

Pre-pharmacy requirements

Pharmacy schools don’t necessarily require you to have a bachelor’s degree. Although, many pharmacy schools do have prerequisite courses that you need to complete.

These are courses like calculus, anatomy, and biochemistry. The courses you’re required to take depend on the school and program you’re looking at. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a science-related school, you may also qualify for a pharmacy program.

Pharmacy school

The first step when looking at potential pharmacy schools is making sure that you’ve done the necessary prerequisite coursework. Then make sure that the school is accredited by the ACPE (Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education).

A program will typically take four years to complete, but some schools do offer expedited programs if you meet certain requirements.

Depending on the school you’re applying to, you might be required to take the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) as part of the admissions process.

Your PCAT scores can definitely bolster your application and secure your place if they’re good enough. It also won’t hurt your application if you can show that you’ve done some work experience in a pharmacy.

During your coursework, you will probably study public health, pharmacy law, pharmaceuticals, community practice, pharmacology and body systems, and pharmacy management.

The hours spent doing practical training can also count towards the 1500 clinical internship hours that must be completed. This isn’t the exact figure of required clinical internship hours for every pharmacy school or pharmacy program.

Specialization

In this case, you will specialize in becoming an ambulatory care pharmacist.

Getting licensed

After receiving your Doctor of Pharmacy degree, the next step is to become a licensed pharmacist. There are different requirements for each state in the U.S., so make sure that you’re aware of what’s necessary for the state you choose to practice in.

Here are some requirements that you may have to meet:

  • A Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an ACPE-accredited school.
  • Successful completion of a certain amount of clinical internship hours.
  • A passing score on the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam).
  • A passing score on the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam) or any other state pharmacy licensure exam.

How to Get Board Certified

The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) has been around since 1976. It is widely considered the standard for determining which pharmacists are qualified to practice at advanced levels.

There are a few requirements one has to meet to become certified by the BPS. The pharmacist must:

  • Graduate from an accredited pharmacy program. The program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Alternatively, you can also be a graduate from a progam outside of the U.S that would allow you to practice in the U.S.
  • Maintain an active pharmacy license that allows them to practice in the U.S. or a different country.
  • Have at least 4 years of post-licensure experience in pharmacy practice. At least half of this time must be spent at an ambulatory care pharmacy duties, which are outlined in the BPS Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Specialty Content Outline.
  • Or
  • Complete an accredited PGY1 residency. The residency must be accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Or, they must complete a new residency program that’s a candidate for accreditation by the ASHP.
  • If they choose the new residency, they must also have an additional year of practice after being licensed. At least half of this time must be spent taking part in ambulatory care pharmacy duties as outlined in the BPS Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Specialty Content Outline.
  • Or
  • Complete a PGY2 Ambulatory Care Pharmacy residency program that is accredited by the ASHP. They must also pass the BPS Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Certification Examination.

Once certified, the pharmacist must get recertified every 7 years. This is done by:

  • Passing the BPS Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Certification Examination.
  • Or
  • Achieving 100 hours of continuing education credit that is provided by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and/or a joint program offered by the ASHP and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP).

Which Skills are Needed to Be an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist?

As people that work with medications and ambulatory patients, pharmacists have to be highly trained and have a specific set of skills.

Scientific knowledge

A pharmacist in this specialized field needs to have good, working scientific knowledge. This includes knowing about various drugs and medications as well as subjects like chemistry and biology.

Detail-oriented

Human error when it comes to dispensing prescription medications can cause big problems for patients. It can negatively affect their health. So pharmacists need to be able to pay attention to detail to avoid such mistakes.

It’s also a pharmacist’s job to evaluate the prescriptions they receive and make sure they’re appropriate for the patient. This means making sure the patient receives the correct dose and that the medication works well with any other drugs they might be prescribed.

Computer skills

Pharmacists should be well-versed in computer use. Pharmacies are becoming more and more electronically based and automated. For example, most medical records are stored and updated electronically nowadays.

Impeccable memory

Pharmacists need to know about thousands of medications and how they affect the human body.

Able to work collaboratively

In ambulatory care pharmacy, pharmacists have to work together with other healthcare professionals to provide the best patient care.

This skill will help pharmacists with being able to run a successful pharmacy practice.

Bedside manner

Pharmacists spend a lot of time in direct patient care. It’s important that they are able to make the patients feel comfortable to open up and disclose anything. They’ll also feel more trusting when the pharmacist prescribes something. It’s also a bonus if the pharmacist can describe medications and conditions in a way that is easily accessible and understandable.

Research skills

The medical field is constantly advancing, and there are new drugs coming out all the time. It’s the pharmacist’s job to stay up-to-date and have knowledge of the drugs and their uses. This includes knowledge regarding how these drugs interact with other drugs and the human body.

FAQs

What are the five types of pharmacies?

The five different types of pharmacies are hospital pharmacies, clinical pharmacies, research pharmacies, regulatory pharmacies, and compounding and infusion pharmacies.

What are the differences between a clinical pharmacist and an ambulatory care pharmacist?

A clinical pharmacist uses their extensive drug knowledge and applies it to clinical scenarios. An ambulatory care pharmacist works with a physician at a pharmacy practice to help manage patients in chronic disease states.

Final Thoughts

Ambulatory care pharmacy is highly in demand right now. It’s a great next step if you’re already a pharmacist. It’s also a great choice of field to choose to go into from the start. This is particularly true if you’re very scientifically minded and love to work in direct patient care.

https://www.bpsweb.org/media/ambulatory-care-pharmacy-fact-sheet/

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