What is pharmacist practice?
He aha te mahi a te kaimātau rongoā?
Pharmacy is about the manufacture, supply, and effects of medicines. Pharmacists give patients access to appropriate medicines and advise how to use them.

The pharmacy profession includes:

  • pharmacist prescribers
  • pharmacists
  • intern pharmacists
  • pharmacy technicians
  • retail pharmacy assistants

By law, all practising pharmacists must be registered with the Pharmacy Council and hold a current annual practising certificate.

Pharmacy technicians and retail pharmacy assistants work under the supervision of pharmacists but are not regulated by the Pharmacy Council.

Read the scopes of practice for pharmacist prescribers, pharmacists, and intern pharmacists.

Pharmacists have varied roles

Pharmacists work in a wide range of roles using their core pharmacy skills. They are integral to the healthcare team that safeguards the health of New Zealanders.

Community pharmacists

Community pharmacists are familiar to everyone. New Zealand has over 1100 pharmacies in its cities, rural towns, and shopping malls. Thousands of people visit these pharmacies every day and over 50 million prescriptions are dispensed each year. Community pharmacists:

  • consult with patients
  • dispense and give advice on using prescription medicines
  • offer other health and well-being information
  • supply over-the-counter medicines and other products.

Hospital pharmacists

Hospital pharmacists play a key role in making sure the medication patients use during a hospital stay is evidence-based, safe, and effective. Pharmacists work closely with doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff. They often work in specialist areas such as heart health, cancer, or mental health. Hospital pharmacists:

  • help patients understand their medication and answer questions about it
  • advise on types of medicine, doses, side effects and interactions with other medication
  • monitor patients for reactions and effectiveness.

Pharmacists in general practice

Pharmacists also work in general practices (or medical centres) as part of the community healthcare team. They help patients to use medicine safely and effectively.

Some general practice pharmacists have special knowledge or experience, for example with diabetes or asthma. They may also be prescribing pharmacists. General practice pharmacists:

  • ensure patients have the knowledge and information they need about their medicines and health conditions
  • recommend medicine changes to doctors or consultants if needed, for example for unwanted side effects, dose adjustments, or to try a different medicine
  • contact patients recently discharged from hospital to follow up or explain any changes made to their medicines
  • give medicine advice to doctors and nurses
  • take part in medicine-related quality improvement activities in the practice.

Prescribing pharmacists

Pharmacists with extra postgraduate qualifications can prescribe prescription medicines.  Pharmacist prescribers often work in hospitals or general practices, but may also work at marae clinics or at rest homes. Prescribing pharmacists:

  • work alongside doctors and other health professionals
  • ensure patients have continued access to their prescription medicines.

Pharmacists in industry

The pharmaceutical industry researches and manufactures new medicines, as well as producing and marketing existing medicines. Pharmacists work at every step of the process.  Opportunities in research and development are limited in New Zealand because most of this work is carried out overseas. However, some industry pharmacists work in:

  • formulating medicines
  • quality assurance
  • product information.

Pharmacists outside traditional roles

Pharmacists are also using their skills to improve New Zealand healthcare from outside traditional positions.

  • Medicines information
  • Health informatics
  • Healthcare for the Defence Force
  • Aged residential care
  • Public health
  • Medicine safety
  • Research and academia
  • Clinical studies
  • Border control
  • Wholesaling and distribution
  • Liaison between primary and secondary care.