Getting the most out of your pharmacist
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- Pharmacists are experts in medicines. They supply medicine and help to ensure that you’re taking it safely.
- Pharmacists are part of your healthcare team and work together with doctors, hospitals and allied health professionals.
- They can give you advice about minor health problems, help you manage chronic conditions and tell you if you need to see your doctor.
- Pharmacists may offer other services, such as vaccinations, blood tests and medical certificates.
What is a pharmacist?
Pharmacists (sometimes called chemists) are qualified medicines experts who give advice and counselling on medicines and general healthcare to millions of Australians every year. Pharmacists play an important role as front-line health professionals, and they do a lot more than give you your prescription medicine.
How can pharmacists help?
Australia has a network of over 5,700 community pharmacies. Pharmacists are often patients’ first point of contact with the health system. They supply medicines and check that you have the correct dose, if you have any allergies and if you could have any other problems with your medicine. They give advice on how to use medicines safely.
Many pharmacists get to know their patients over time. Good communication with your pharmacist can improve your health.
Pharmacists work closely with GPs, specialists, allied health professionals or hospitals to ensure that your medicine is prescribed appropriately. They also offer a range of services to consumers.
What can pharmacists do?
- supply prescription medicines
- advise on the best over-the-counter (OTC) and generic (non-name brand medicines, which are usually cheaper) medicines for you
- give you advice on how to take your medicines safely
- compound (prepare) a medicine especially for you if needed
- help you manage your medicines better (for example, by filling a blister pack to separate your medicines into the days and times you need to take them), for a small fee
- conduct a Home Medicines Review
- deliver medicines or supplies
Pharmacists can provide a range of support to help you manage your health. They can give lifestyle advice and general health information.
Pharmacists are an important part of your healthcare team, and they can help you manage chronic health conditions such as diabetes and asthma. They can help you to understand your condition, monitor your symptoms and improve how you manage your health at home. They can also guide you on how to access specialist services in your area or find reliable health information. Pharmacists can provide mental health support services too.
Wound care support
Pharmacists can help you manage minor injuries and show you how to apply dressings and compression garments.
Health checks and risk assessments
You can get your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar tests at a pharmacy, and you can share these results with your GP. Your GP is best placed to help you understand what these results mean as part of your overall health management.
Pharmacists can also help you work out if you may be at risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. If your pharmacist is concerned that you may be at risk, they will refer you to your doctor to discuss this.
Some specially trained pharmacists offer vaccinations. The type of vaccine that you can get at your pharmacy depends on which state or territory you live in. Pharmacists with appropriate training now offer COVID-19 vaccinations.
For information on which vaccines you can get at a pharmacy in your state, visit the Pharmacy Guild of Australia website.
Support for children and babies
Pharmacists provide advice and products to help you treat common baby conditions such as nappy rash, eczema, cradle cap, constipation, fever, pain and teething. They can tell you if your child needs to see a doctor. They can tell you which medicines are safe for your child and how to work out the right dose for them. Some pharmacies offer a baby-care service to weigh and measure your baby, and they may have nurses or midwives available for consultation.
Self-care and lifestyle assessments
Pharmacists focus on wellness and a healthy lifestyle, for example, they can provide BMI checks and help to quit smoking. Pharmacists can also direct you to reputable sources of health information, such as evidence-based websites.
You can get a medical certificate for an absence from work from some pharmacies.
Sleep apnoea support
Pharmacists may be able to identify whether you're at risk of sleep apnoea, provide home-based sleep tests and help you to use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to treat sleep apnoea.
How do I find a pharmacist?
You can use healthdirect’s service finder to search for your local pharmacy (sometimes called a chemist), or search findapharmacy.com.au to see which services are provided by the pharmacies in your area.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: June 2022