How to Become an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist | Ambulatory Care

by | Jan 25, 2021 | Career, Career Path

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This article is a part of a series of The Many Paths of Pharmacy, which has 48 other pharmacy career paths.


Summary – Pharmacists in Ambulatory Care

The ambulatory care pharmacist is a newer addition to the pharmacy specialties. Ambulatory care’s primary focus is treating chronic disease states. The pharmacist plays the role of chronic disease therapeutic management, choosing therapeutic options and follow up on the response. Pharmacists typically are on-site in primary care clinics, however, ambulatory care pharmacists can also be found in the community setting. These services can prove invaluable to patients and medical providers.

This Pharmacy Ambulatory Career Description is a part of The Ultimate Guide to Pharmacy Careers, part of our future book, POTENTIAL.

Requirements of an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist

Becoming an ambulatory care pharmacist does not have stringent requirements. However, residencies are becoming more and more common as a job “preference.” At least one year of postgraduate training is recommended to display a minimum level of competency upon entering this specialized field of pharmacy. A pharmacist can transition into an ambulatory care setting without a residency, but it requires a specific career transition strategy.

Additionally, a pharmacist involved in patient care would do well to pursue BPS certification while having prior clinical experience, since this seems to be the standard by which other ambulatory care judge competency. This is especially true for larger institutions.

Due to the importance of direct patient care, good communication skills, teaching ability, critical thinking and problem solving are highly recommended given the long-term role the ambulatory care pharmacist will have when treating chronic disease states. Additionally, as with any clinical role, extensive documentation is a large component of the specialty, and proper attention to detail and organizational skills are critical requirements. An excellent review of the ambulatory care role, setting, credentialing, and reimbursement issues can be found here.

Salary of an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist

Per PayScale, the average salary for an ambulatory care pharmacist is approximately $120,000 per year which is close to what the standard staff pharmacist makes per year. Typically, the range of salary fluctuates between a low of $97,000 per year and a high of $130,000 per year.

In terms of positions, ambulatory care is a fast-growing field giving the demand for primary care clinics and physicians, yet the positions posted do not appear more frequently than other clinical pharmacy roles. This is due to spaces being noticed internally where a role needs to be filled. Often residency-trained pharmacists create programs that require their continued employment after residency. Thus, ambulatory care pharmacist positions are often filled internally. This allows for greater diversity in the roles and specialties for each individual ambulatory care pharmacist but also can imply difficulty in initially breaking into the field.

Pros and Cons of Being an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist

Ambulatory care is characterized by patient interaction, thus pharmacists who thrive on relationships and clinical care will find ambulatory care fulfilling. The ability to socialize and have an immediate impact on patients over a long period potentially allows for job satisfaction. Additionally, there is a level of interconnection with various medical professionals allowing for interactions that will ultimately lead to better patient care based upon multiple expertise on chronic disease states. Working in a team environment can be a pro or con depending on the institution. Another ambulatory care pro is many pharmacists enjoy the typical work week, Monday through Friday, and many enjoy stable part-time work opportunities.

Given the nature of chronic disease states, however, effective (and heavy) documentation is required to ensure proper care and tedious tasks that someone finds grating may be an issue as per a survey conducted by APhA. Without such documentation, difficulties in being reimbursed for services rendered can occur. It is recommended that time for such documentation is allocated during a typical day, otherwise, a workday can extend past a typical 9 to 5 shift. If you find yourself easily attached to your patients, you may find it emotionally challenging when a patient’s health worsens.

How to Stand Out as an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist Job Candidate

Due to the sociable and hands-on nature of the specialty, positions for ambulatory care pharmacy tend to go quickly. A PGY1 and PGY2 is the obvious way to stand out in today’s pharmacy job market. Having previous work in a clinical setting, an internship, or a residency would further one’s experience and show dedication to such a field.

However, what can you do if a residency is out of the question? There are a few strategies that will help your candidacy. Volunteering in a clinic in some form is beneficial as experience in order to show commitment to patient care, especially so because of the long term patient relations that will be fostered. Furthermore, pursuing a network from organizations such as the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) can provide a wide variety of experiences and educational opportunities. The Board of Pharmacy Specialties and ACCP both have certifications that can be earned which would further distinguish oneself from the competition.

Pursuing job opportunities in newer, less established clinics provide prime opportunities for pharmacists. Pharmacists have been able to transition into the ambulatory care path by building relationships with primary care providers and in turn providing services to the organization. Pharmacists in our program have done this by providing services free of charge, and transition into a full or part-time position after trust and value is established.

Prepared by: Evan Hardbeck, PharmD Candidate

Interview: Jackie Boyle, PharmD (Ambulatory Care Pharmacist)

Edited: Alex Barker, PharmD


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