Pharmacists have for long been seen as glorified shopkeepers whose work is to dispense over-the-counter medication. Most people have for long thought that their only skill is to read and decode doctors’ illegible prescriptions. Jean Damascene Nsengeyukuri, the lead pharmacist at Alliance Pharmacy, a popular pharmacy on Statistics Road, told Collins Mwai how the profession operates.
Other than reading doctors’ illegible handwriting, what else do pharmacists do?
My work involves more than that. I dispense drugs to clients and also advise them on effective and rational drug use. It is my duty to ensure the delivery of medication to clients.
I act as the link between the pharmacy and the Ministry of Health, mostly to get the communication that the ministry would like effected. At times I also act as the spokesperson (of the pharmacy) if need be.
I am also in-charge of procurement and supply chain management. A pharmacist’s role is said to be seven-star: caregiver, decision maker, communicator, leader, manager, lifelong learner and a teacher.
What course did you take at a higher institute of learning?
I hold a degree in pharmacy from the National University of Rwanda. It is a five-year course, including internship.
In high school, I studied, Language (Latin) and a combination of sciences; Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics.
What personal characteristics make a good pharmacist?
You need to have good communication skills as you are always dealing with clients and providing pharmaceutical care. The tendency to voluntarily collect information makes one a good pharmacist as one is equipped with knowledge on the latest medication and their use.
What emerging trends have you observed?
Previously, pharmacy was not given the attention and seriousness it deserved. Almost anybody could practice the profession as a business without formal training. Nurses and people with training in such fields could double as pharmacists. Nowadays it is a requirement that if you want to open a pharmacy you need to have a qualified pharmacist in charge unlike before.
How do pharmacists progress career-wise?
It is a bit of both, the longer you work, the better you get. I take personal lessons from the internet and attend workshops and training. I am a regular and keen reader of pharmaceutical books. Currently, I am attending a training organised by the World Health Organisation; such trainings are good for your career progression.
In pharmacy, there is continuous professional development which may not require one to sit in class. We have a pharmacy board that ensures that we have continuous professional development as well as providing access to trainings and information.
How universal is the profession, can one practice it in a different country?
As long as one is qualified and certified, they can practice in most countries. I have colleagues who have moved to other countries.
Considering that your profession borders medicine, how easy is it for a pharmacist to study medicine?
You still have to begin from first year; you get exempted from course units that are common for both professions. It would also be an added advantage since you will already have a foundation in medicine.
What makes the profession worth it?
I always wanted to be a pharmacist or doctor as it would provide a chance to provide care and help ease people’s pain. Pharmacy gives me that chance to provide such services to people.
What challenges do you face?
Anyone who wants to be a pharmacist should be ready to put in much work. At times we are overloaded with work due to the national policies which doesn’t allow a pharmacy to have more than one pharmacist.
What can cause a pharmacist’s fall?
Delivery of bad customer care and service is your easiest way out. Little knowledge would easily cause you to fail, that’s why we are always eager to learn about new developments.
Working hours of a pharmacist?
It depends on the establishment but it usually exceeds eight hours a day because of national policy which requires that a qualified pharmacist should be present during the working hours of the pharmacy.
Any word of wisdom to those seeking the career path?
The profession is lucrative as every pharmacy is supposed have a qualified pharmacist present. I would urge learners and students to strive for self reliance since there may not be that many jobs in government institutions. After gaining knowledge seek how you can put it into practice.