What Does a Retail Pharmacist Do?

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  • Written By: Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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Retail pharmacists assist patients in wellness through filling prescriptions, supervising any pharmacy technicians, providing customer services, managing the pharmacy inventory, administering vaccines and teaching. To complete all of these duties, these professionals must be highly detail-oriented and organized with good communication and social skills. Although they may sell products aside from those in the pharmacy, their primary concern is always to get consumers the medications necessary.

The largest duty of a retail pharmacist is completing prescription orders. This starts with gathering patient data from formal prescription slips, which the consumer may present or which a physician may send electronically from another location. The pharmacist checks this information for any possible drug interactions and verifies that the patient in fact has authorization to receive the medication(s). He then takes payment from the customer or checks the customer's health insurance coverage, often filling out third party insurance forms.

A retail pharmacist is responsible for safely dispensing all medications from the pharmacy, but he doesn't always do every step of completing prescriptions himself. Often, he delegates some tasks to qualified pharmacy technicians. In some instances, the pharmacist may contact other pharmacists who have a specialization in a particular medicine type for information. This allows the pharmacy to complete many more prescription orders than if the pharmacist was working alone. If the retail pharmacist has techs available, he is responsible for managerial duties such as scheduling, monitoring adherence to pharmacy policy and other regulations and payroll.


Customer service beyond prescription filling is part of the job for a retail pharmacist, as well. This may include explaining the benefits or drawbacks of specific drugs and other health-related equipment in the pharmacy. Answering questions about how to use drugs also is standard. If a consumer needs help finding something sold over-the-counter, he may tell the consumer where to find it or even physically take the consumer to the item. In some instances, a retail pharmacist liaises between the physician and the consumer to adjust drugs to the generic rather than name-brand version in order to help the consumer afford the medication.

Consumers expect pharmacies at retail locations to have medications on hand, so another element of a retail pharmacist's job is keeping track of an ordering inventory. Many drugs in pharmacies are under strict regulation, thus retail pharmacists keep careful records of when a substance arrives, who dispenses it and how much, the cost and when a new order likely will need to occur. Checking the inventory for old or expired medications is another task.

In some cases, a retail pharmacist has the training and authorization necessary to provide some basic vaccines, such as those for the flu. If the pharmacist is qualified, he may advertise the availability of the vaccines when appropriate and administer the vaccines in a controlled environment. Sometimes the pharmacist works with the pharmacy manager or owner to arrange for someone else to provide this service if the pharmacist cannot do it himself.

Some retail pharmacists also teach. This may happen in the traditional classroom setting, but it also can happen directly in the pharmacy, such as if someone is interning under the pharmacist's direction. Depending on the jurisdiction, the pharmacist may need special licenses to do this.


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