Careers advice

What are the skills needed to be a pharmacist in New Zealand?

What you need to be able to do.

With good job opportunities and the chance to earn a good salary, it’s not surprising that pharmacist jobs are popular in New Zealand.

This is a skilled profession that requires you to have certain qualifications in order to get on the ladder. In this article, we’ll explore the hard skills that pharmacists need in their day-to-day roles, and also go into some of the other traits and competencies that employers want to see. The idea is that you come out of reading this armed with the right knowledge and phrases to use when writing your CV or preparing for a job interview.

What are the skills needed to be a pharmacist?

Hard skills for pharmacists

There are a couple of major stepping stones on the way to becoming a pharmacist in New Zealand:

  • Study a Bachelor of Pharmacy: These are four year courses, and are offered by both the University of Otago and University of Auckland.
  • Complete an internship: This will typically involve spending a year, or more if you want to, in a professional health setting. Most commonly, this will be a community pharmacy or hospital.

Once you’ve jumped through these hoops, you’ll need to register with the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand. This is a professional organisation that was set up to safeguard quality standards for pharmaceutical employees, and you’ll have to register in order to practice as a pharmacist.

You'll need soild maths and science skills to be a pharmacist.

Your university qualification and internship experience will provide you with some of the key hard skills you’ll use on a daily basis when you’re working as a pharmacist. These include:

1. Maths and science skills

Top notch maths skills are vital for pharmacists to be able to measure the correct doses for drugs, place orders for stock and ensure the correct amount of medication is dispensed to each patient. It goes without saying, but you can’t be making mistakes in any of these tasks, so you’ll be relying on your maths skills on a daily basis.

When it comes to science, understanding how the different drugs you stock impact the body is key when you;re giving out advice for over-the-counter medication, and will also allow you to talk with confidence about any prescriptions you’re filling for customers.

2. Technology skills

These will be important during your internship, as you’ll find yourself using computer databases for all sorts of tasks, ranging from storing customer information, ordering stock and communicating with GPs and other health facilities.

As well as being able to use the relevant software packages efficiently to enable a smooth workflow, you’ll also need to ensure customer privacy every step of the way, as you’ll be handling sensitive health data on a daily basis.

Soft skills for pharmacists

While your technical skills and experience should be front and centre on your CV, soft skills are also vital to being an effective pharmacist. Here are some that employers value:

1. Empathy, discretion and cultural sensitivity

    Of course, in your role you’ll be dealing with lots of people who are going through rough times either physically or mentally, and you’ll need to be aware of this when you’re communicating with them.

    The other key point to consider is that health is deeply personal, and customers coming into pharmacies want to feel that their information is being carefully looked after. You should also be able to spot when a customer isn’t comfortable discussing certain matters on the shop floor, so that you can offer to take them somewhere private to hear their concerns.

    In addition, in a multicultural society like New Zealand, you also need to be aware that people from different backgrounds will have a variety of approaches to talking about health, and you’ll need to be able to adapt and work with them to reach a positive outcome.

    People skills are also a must.

    2. Communication

    In addition to empathy and discretion, you’ll need to be able to communicate clearly with patients about the medications they’re picking up. For obvious reasons, it’s vital that they understand how and when they should be taking their medication, as well as any potential side effects and foods or activities to avoid doing while they’re taking it.

    It’s important to understand that while you have four years of university as well as your professional experience under your belt, you’ll be communicating with people who have little to no knowledge of medication. This means you’ll need to be able to explain these concepts in plain English and ensure the message gets across.

    3. Multitasking skills

    As a pharmacist you’ll be wearing multiple hats. In a single day, you’ll find yourself providing health advice, performing administration tasks such as ordering in stock and also selling goods, to name but a few potential tasks.

    Due to the importance of pharmacies to each local community that they serve, it’s important that you’re able to perform each of these functions to schedule, while also ensuring utmost attention to detail. Again, this is where the internship you complete before fully diving into the professional role will equip you with the skills and experience you’ll need to be a great pharmacist.