How Can Pharmacists Contribute to the Evolution of Clinical Care?
According to the REAL Centre’s projections, the current shortage of qualified, permanent GPs is about to significantly worsen over this decade. It has been estimated that currently, there is a shortage of around 4,200 full-time equivalent GPs, expected to rise to about 8,900 in 2030/31 (in relation to the number required to meet the continually rising need for care).
One of the proposed strategies for coping with the increasing workload involves employing pharmacists in patient-facing roles. As indicated by research, they can positively contribute to clinical outcomes in healthcare, and their expertise can be useful within general practice. However, to ensure that pharmacists have the skillset they require to fit their expanding role, pharmacy team members will need to acquire new competencies and skills as part of their continuous professional development.
Expanding the Skillset of Pharmacy Professionals
So, what are some examples of new skills that would help pharmacists contribute to clinical care more comprehensively? One popular definition of ‘clinical skills’ is the following: ‘A clinical skill may contain one or several different domains such as: physical examination skills, practical procedure, communication skills, and management’.
One of the most important skills when it comes to patient-facing roles is the ability to communicate well. Projecting confidence and positivity and being capable of inspiring trust into people is essential for all pharmacy roles, but it is especially significant for those who are looking to expand their expertise and contribute to primary care. Additionally, ‘people skills’ are very important when it comes to actively listening to patients and asking them to clarify or elaborate when it is needed.
Despite pharmacists having more experience in medicines rather than diagnosis, when working in primary care, they still require diagnostic skills to be able to assess patients, diagnose conditions, recognise symptoms that might indicate a serious disease, and provide an adequate referral in case one is needed.
An example of this would be the increasing number of patients turning to pharmacies for hearing care-related advice ever since earwax removal stopped being offered at most GP practices. In order to help these patients, pharmacists need to have a basic understanding of the ear’s anatomy. Since earwax is not always the origin of the problem (even though the patient might be under the impression that it is), pharmacists must be equipped with the knowledge to properly assess the health of the ear and identify the issues present. To do this, they require the skillset needed for safe usage of diagnostic equipment such as an otoscope, etc.
Receiving training in patient-centric procedures can provide significant help to pharmacists looking to expand their practice. Again, earwax removal is a great example of that because of the great demand for the procedure now that it is no longer offered by most GPs, forcing patients to increasingly turn to pharmacists for treatment.
Specially trained pharmacists that are able to safely perform the different types of earwax removal procedures such as manual removal, water irrigation, and microsuction, can maximise their contribution to the improvement of patient care while moving their career forward at the same time.
Developing their management abilities can help clinical pharmacists supervise other professionals (if this is required by their specific position) and provide guidance with daily tasks. Additionally, management skills are essential for the ability to multitask, since being organised can be helpful when handling several tasks at once, which is often required in pharmacists’ working environments.
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