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The Clinical Pharmacist: What Role They Play in Pharmacy

Published on: Apr 1, 2023
By: Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS
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What is a Clinical Pharmacist?

Clinical pharmacists are healthcare professionals who specialize in using medications to improve patient outcomes. They work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. The role of a clinical pharmacist is to optimize medication therapy by working collaboratively with other healthcare providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, dietitians, and other healthcare professionals, to ensure that patients receive the most effective and safe treatment possible.  

What does a Clinical Pharmacist Do?

One of the primary responsibilities of a clinical pharmacist is reviewing medication orders and patient histories to identify potential drug interactions or adverse reactions. They also work with healthcare providers to develop and implement medication treatment plans for patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Clinical pharmacists are also involved in patient education, helping patients understand their medications and how to take them correctly. Patient care is paramount to a clinical pharmacist. They may provide counseling on lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, that can help improve medication outcomes. Additionally, clinical pharmacists may provide medication management services for patients with complex medication regimens, such as those receiving chemotherapy or other specialized treatments.

The Role of a Clinical Pharmacist

The role of clinical pharmacists has become increasingly important in recent years as the number of available medications has grown and the complexity of treatment plans has increased. By working closely with other healthcare providers, clinical pharmacists can help improve patient outcomes, reduce medication errors, and lower healthcare costs.

One area in which clinical pharmacists have significantly impacted is the management of chronic diseases. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, patients who received medication therapy management services from a clinical pharmacist had better control of their diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia than those who did not receive such services (1).

Clinical pharmacists also play a critical role in preventing and managing medication errors. According to the Institute of Medicine, medication errors harm at least 1.5 million people each year in the United States (2). Clinical pharmacists can help reduce the risk of prescribed medication errors by reviewing medication orders, monitoring for adverse drug reactions, and providing education to patients and other healthcare providers.

In addition to their clinical responsibilities, clinical pharmacists may also be involved in research and teaching. They may research the efficacy and safety of medications or participate in clinical trials. They may also teach pharmacology and related subjects to medical students, residents, and other healthcare professionals.

Where do Clinical Pharmacists Work?

Clinical pharmacists work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. To become a clinical pharmacist, individuals must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program and obtain a license to practice pharmacy in their state. Clinical pharmacists also pursue additional training or certification in pharmacotherapy, ambulatory care, or critical care.

Closing Thoughts When Considering Become a Clinical Pharmacist

In conclusion, clinical pharmacists play an essential role in the healthcare system by ensuring patients receive the most effective and safe medication therapy possible. They work collaboratively with other health professionals to optimize medication regimens, prevent medication errors, and improve patient outcomes. The clinical pharmacist’s expertise in medication therapy and disease management makes the clinical pharmacist an invaluable resource to healthcare teams and patients by improving patient outcomes through medication management, disease management, and patient education. 

As the complexity of medication treatment plans continues to grow, clinical pharmacists' importance in healthcare will only increase. 

Interested in topics beyond clinical pharmacy?

You may be interested in our articles on the following topics: 


  1. Cranor CW, Christensen DB. The Asheville Project: long-term clinical and economic outcomes of a community pharmacy diabetes care program. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2003;43(2):173-84.

  2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000.

portrait of Jim Herbst PharmD

Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS is an advanced patient care pharmacist at a nationally ranked pediatric acute care teaching hospital.  Dr Herbst received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Ohio State University in 2012.  He started his clinical career as an inpatient patient care pharmacist covering the neurology and complex care services, before transitioning to a pediatric neurology ambulatory care clinic in 2019. 

Dr Herbst's areas of interest in pediatric neurology include treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy, infantile spasms, the ketogenic diet, and neuroimmunology.  He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed pharmacy and neurology journals, including Neurology, Epilepsia, and the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.  Dr Herbst is board certified as a pediatric pharmacy specialist.

Opinions and information published by the author here on PharmDDegree.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Education: Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), The Ohio State University
Knowledge: Advanced Patient Care Pharmacy, Neurology, Epilepsia