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Dec 10 2019

National Pharmacist Day is January 12 - But We Appreciate Them All Year Long

Once again we take a day from our busy schedules to celebrate our nation's pharmacists, the more than 310,000 men and women who dedicate their professional lives to ensuring drug safety and the highest levels of patient care.  January 12 is officially-designated as "National Pharmacist Day," and provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the critical role these individuals perform.

Last year, when the American Pharmacists Association awarded its "Remington Honor Medal," widely regarded as the pharmacy profession's most prestigious award to Dr. Lucinda L. Maine, she accepted the honor by noting:  "The pharmacy profession attracts some of the world's most compassionate and dedicated healthcare professionals, and I see it as our calling to provide our patients with the best advice and care possible to truly make a difference in their lives."

 And it is in that spirit that we take a moment to reflect on the contributions our pharmacists make to improving global health, and to the unique attributes of the pharmacist profession.

  • Among the most trusted professions.  Pharmacists ranked third on Gallup's annual list of "honest and ethical" professions, falling just below nurses and medical doctors.  66 percent of survey respondents gave pharmacists a "very high/high" rating with regard to the "honesty and ethical standards of people in this field."  This impressive ranking marked the 17th consecutive year in which pharmacists scored at-or-near the top of the Gallup survey.
  • A highly-educated profession of more than 300,000!  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 2018 pharmacist workforce of 314,300 individuals.  Pharmacists must earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited program, which generally requires four years to complete.  This is in addition to a candidate’s undergraduate education.  Pharmacists must pass the North American Pharmacists Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), and meet licensing/examination requirements of the state(s) in which they practice.
  •  A profession with an active pipeline.   The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) reports that as of July 2019, there were 143 U.S.-based colleges and schools of pharmacy that offered accredited professional pharmacy degree programs.  Almost 63,000 students were enrolled in first degree programs during fall 2018.  And for the 2017-18 school year, 600 Ph.D. degrees were awarded, 1,047 M.S. degrees and 14,905 first professional degrees.  This success rate indicates a steady flow of highly talented individuals! 
  •  And a profession rife with unsung heroes.  Most patients see their pharmacist as a trusted health provider who competently disburses medications, administers vaccinations, helps navigate an insurance claim, or provides critical information about a medication or health issue.  But as individuals regularly described as the "last line of defense" in patient protection, pharmacists regularly go above and beyond to help.  A few examples:

o     Massachusetts pharmacist Jessica Marx was preparing to administer what she thought would be a routine immunization, when the patient turned to her and said: "I need to let you know that you saved my life."  As it turns out   in a previous encounter, Marx had picked up on a potential conflict between the patient's history of kidney stones and use of vitamin C supplements.  As reported in the April 2019 issue of Pharmacy Today, Marx advised the  patient to stop the vitamin C, as there was some evidence that large doses could lead to kidney stones.  She suggested that elderberry might make a suitable replacement for the vitamin C.  "I was just doing my job," Marx noted.  But for the patient, who has not experienced any kidney stones since stopping the vitamin C, Marx was a lifesaver.

o     Roughly 700 calls each day come into California's Poison Help hotline, which is administered and staffed by the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy.  A profile in the UCSF Magazine highlighted just a few of the pharmacists who give their time to help field these calls.  A few examples include Sandra Agustin, PharmD who counseled a frantic parent after his 3-year-old son accidentally ingested some thyroid pills; Ben Tsutaoka,  PharmD, who gave guidance to a nurse who called from an emergency room regarding a 19-month-old boy who had eaten an unknown quantity of chemotherapy pills; and Justin Lewis, PharmD, who manages the poison center's Sacramento division, and stresses the need to convey confidence and remain calm during these interactions.

 

Pharmacists play a special role in American health, and we are grateful for their commitment and compassion.  As another "National Pharmacists Day" approaches, it's fitting that we take a moment to express our deep gratitude for a job well done!

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