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This article is a part of a series of The Ultimate Guide to Pharmacy Career Opportunities, which has 48 other pharmacy career paths.
Summary - Pharmacists in Community Health Centers
Community health center (CHC) pharmacists are essential for providing needed health care services and information to the underserved. The CHC pharmacist role is like a community pharmacist providing medications in an outpatient setting, likely as a non-profit supported by grants. These pharmacists also advise the other healthcare professionals working with outpatients at CHC clinics if available. These positions can easily lead to expanding a pharmacist’s role in ambulatory care and disease state management. Direct patient contact is a strong component in many of the practice environments. The pharmacist’s responsibilities vary significantly by individual location. Pharmacists can be in a CHC with or without a dispensing component, but more commonly contains a dispensing component.
Click here to listen to our Happy PharmD Summit Session with Brett Gingrich, PharmD, a CHC Pharmacist at Cherry Street Health Center.
Responsibilities of a Community Health Center Pharmacist
Community Health Center Pharmacists may also be responsible for the following:
CHC pharmacists have the typical community pharmacist responsibilities, and activities vary on the setting and an organization’s view towards pharmacy practice. If leadership is open to pharmacy practice expanding, the pharmacists could have an extensive clinical role. However, some pharmacists report the practice site being mainly traditional dispensing activities. Community Health Center pharmacist may be responsible for the following:
- Dispensing medication, which includes providing proper counselling to patients
- Conducting business and department management
- Providing patient care services such as medication therapy management and disease management
- Conduct wellness and preventative health programs
- Some states allow CHC pharmacist to serve as primary care provider working within collaborative practice agreements with physicians
This Community Health Center Career Description is a part of The Ultimate Guide to Pharmacy Careers, part of our future book, POTENTIAL.
Requirements of a Community Health Center Pharmacist
To be a community center pharmacist you are minimally required to have a BSPharm or a PharmD degree. Although it is not required, a PGY-1 Community Residency could lead to ambulatory care responsibilities, clinic management or creation of a clinic, and even community and preventive health projects. Immunization certification is usually required. The soft skills required for a CHC position are interpersonal skills and customer service skills, adaptability, and detail-oriented.
Experience with the 340B program will be highly beneficial, but not a requirement (although viewpoints will vary based on facility and manager). The 340B program mandates that pharmaceutical manufacturers provide outpatient drugs to certain healthcare entities—known as eligible covered entities—at a significant discount, hence allowing affordable care to the underserved. A covered entity can purchase and dispense 340B drugs through internal or external (contract) pharmacies.
Salary of a Community Health Center Pharmacist
According to the American Pharmacist Association career report in 2007, the average salary for a full-time Community Health Center pharmacist ranges from $80,000-$130,000. Glassdoor last reported in 2018, salaries range from $93,443 to $140,889. Do not expect competitive pay in comparison to retail chain positions. The average time worked per week is 42 hours.
Pros and Cons of Being a Community Health Center Pharmacist
Community health center pharmacist can be a rewarding career path. The most appealing aspect of being a community health pharmacist is the variety of work environments, duties, responsibilities and varying settings without dealing with the (at times painful) discussions about medication price(although there are still situations where this arises). CHC positions often do not have rigorous metrics like their retail chain cousins, which allows for a less stress-inducing work environment. The less focus on metric-driven work creates opportunities for counselling patients and direct patient care. The team approach to practice, the interaction with physicians, and feel valued as a member of the healthcare team are more pros of being a community health center pharmacist. This ensures that the patient gets the best care available even though the patients are in underserved areas.
There are negative aspects of working as a CHC pharmacist. One of the main cons of these pharmacists is having to compete for needed resources. Facilities often seek grants to provide adequate patient care, and sometimes may run short. A CHC pharmacist may not need to be involved with grant writing, but if so, the grant paperwork associated could be another drawback to the position. Keep in mind this is not the typical patient population. Basic assumptions, such as your patient will have a refrigerator to store medication, will need reevaluation.
One negative aspect of the CHC role is that they are likely to be only available in urban areas, thus requiring living in or near the city and on lower than average pharmacist wage.
How to Stand Out as a Job Candidate in Community Health Centers
Gaining experience with a 340B program is an excellent way to learn about CHC pharmacies. This can be done in a variety of ways. A hospital or community position will likely interact with patients enrolled into a 340B program, so in turn that creates practice experience. Discover what 340B programs exist in your (desired) location and spend time researching the program. Find out what community initiatives are active and if there is a way to become involved.
Alternatively, CHCs regularly welcome volunteers. There may be a wide variety of activities to volunteer for from community health events to volunteering in the pharmacy. Building relationships with pharmacists in this field is essential.
Prepared by: Jamarius Carvin, PharmD Candidate
Interviewed: Brett Gingrich, PharmD
Edited by: Alex Barker, PharmD
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Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.