Royal Pharmaceutical Society

A closer look at a clinical pharmacy career path

Jill Holden, Lead Clinical Pharmacist, and Lindsay Parkin, Academic Practitioner,both at City Hospitals Sunderland, give us an oversight of what career progression in clinical pharmacy typically involves; what you can expect in terms of responsibility at each stage post-registration, and what opportunities are available within a clinical career.

As a pharmacy graduate or a newly qualified pharmacist it is often difficult to know how you want to develop your career, which sector to move in to and which area of clinical or managerial practice you want to specialise in – but that is ok! Pharmacy is flexible, providing a range of opportunities that you may not have expected or anticipated.


Hospital pharmacy has developed significantly, with the pharmacist now being an integral part of the multidisciplinary team often with the lead role in relation to the safe utilisation of medicines. So what could you expect from a career as a hospital pharmacist?
Hospital pharmacy is very patient focused; much of your time will be spent on the wards completing medicines reconciliation and attending ward rounds or in clinics. You will support the team through the provision of advice on medication doses, interactions and compatibilities and eventually take responsibility for the full independent management of patient care.


As a junior pharmacist starting out, be enthusiastic, take time to experience working in all clinical areas. This will ensure you gain an oversight of how the multidisciplinary team works as well as a good grounding in emergency care, surgery, medicine, care of the elderly, aseptics and more. This will help develop your clinical and working knowledge as well as communication and interpersonal skills. Importantly, it will aid you in identifying areas of clinical or technical practice you may wish to specialise in or pursue.


After two to three years and completion of your clinical diploma and/or independent prescribing you will be looking to progress to a band 7 pharmacist role. This will be more specialist and is usually within a specific clinical area. There are opportunities at this point to develop your role within the team, to take on more responsibility: being involved in local guideline development, attending ward and clinical governance meetings, supporting in the education and training of more junior staff. You can consider taking on the role of a pre-registration tutor which is a great opportunity to develop management and leadership skills.


Following this you will be thinking about moving to a band 8 role, you may consider teaching and research with the emerging role of academic practitioners. In addition to your clinical commitments you will also have managerial responsibilities not just for staff but also the clinical directorate in which you work. These will include the identification of more efficient ways of working, encouraging audit and evaluation of clinical services, involvement in clinical guideline development and the patient safety agenda to name a few. Across all grades, engaging with research and audit is especially important to ensure continual evaluation of service provision, clinical development and improved patient care.


As you progress through your career, there are many opportunities to develop your specialist role, with access to post-graduate qualifications such as independent prescribing, advanced examination skills, MSc and a PhD. There are specialist pharmacy networks and resources that you can join and utilise. It really depends on your areas of interest and how you want to develop your role as a hospital pharmacist.


Lindsay Parkin
Academic Practitioner
University of Sunderland/ City Hospitals Sunderland


Jill Holden
Lead Clinical Pharmacist
City Hospitals Sunderland


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