What is Ambulatory Care?

Ambulatory care pharmacy practice, a fairly novel and fast growing field, focuses on delivering patient-centered care by providing medication management.  Ambulatory pharmacists manage chronic disease states (such as anticoagulation, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, hyperlipidemia) in primarily outpatient clinics (but may also extend to government-run healthcare organizations and inpatient based clinics).  Traditional, most ambulatory care pharmacists focus on one or two specific disease states and will enter written collaborative agreements with physicians.  Under these collaborative protocols, pharmacists are granted authoritative powers to prescribe and modify drug therapies.

What I Liked Most About Ambulatory Care Pharmacy

The beauty of ambulatory care stems from the contentment of direct patient interactions.  The nature of the ambulatory pharmacy enables you, the provider, to establish trusting relationships with your patients; and thus, granting the opportunities to make direct impact on patient’s health. As you can imagine, it can be extremely rewarding to make recommendations that results in improved therapeutic outcomes and reduced hospital readmission rates.   Not only do you enjoy the luxury of patient interactions, you also get to work closely with your medical team.  Say good-bye to pharmacist-physician phone tag days!  In some clinical settings, pharmacists and physicians often share the same office space, allowing for easy interactions.

If retail pharmacy isn’t your cup of tea, this may be a good fit for you.  Unlike retail pharmacy, ambulatory care pharmacists customarily focus on medication usage and monitoring therapeutic outcomes.  As consultant healthcare providers, pharmacists are frequently void of medication dispensing responsibilities.  More or less, you can enjoy the capacity to independently make clinical decisions and amend medication therapies as you see fit within your scope of practice.  Some pharmacists also enjoy the luxury of having an exam room and nurse(s) to help with vitals, physical exams, and administrative work.

Personally, I find ambulatory pharmacy quite satisfying and enjoy watching patient get better right before my very eyes.  Your job can be challenging and requires you to become experts in capacities such as lab values interpretation, application of medical/clinical knowledge, and problem-solving skills.

Last but not least, one of the perks of working in an ambulatory setting is enjoying better, more flexible working hours.  Most clinics are closed on weekends, holidays, and normally only operates on a 9-5 basis.   There are not many career choices in pharmacy that can offer similar privileges.

What I Liked Least About Ambulatory Care

The nature of an ambulatory pharmacist’s work can become dull and tedious for those who practice in settings that focus on just one or two defined disease states.  While you may see challenging cases once in a while, it is largely routine based.  Same sets of questions and values.   In addition, what I find less appealing in the habitual routine of an ambulatory pharmacy is excessive documentations.  Not that I undermine documentation (for it is absolutely necessary), but it takes a good chunk of your time away from interacting with patients.  This is where your SOAP note skill becomes a necessity!

Because ambulatory pharmacy is an increasingly new and popular field, the supply is clearly greater than demand.  Due to limitations in new openings, ambulatory pharmacists’ job outlooks are less optimistic than desired. Most ambulatory pharmacists are residency trained and initially earn a little less than retail pharmacists.  But before reaching any conclusion, money seems to be he least influencing factor for those who chose this career path.  Every ambulatory pharmacists I have had the pleasure of meeting absolutely loves their job and would have it no other way.





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