Ontario Skills Passport
Layout structure
header
Header structure
header
navigation
Display Noc
OSP Occupational Profile

OSP Occupational Profile

Print Occupational Profile

Display page browsing back option list
Display page browsing back option list <<Back
Display Noc Details
NOC Code: NOC Code: 3131 Occupation: Pharmacists
Occupation Description: Occupation Description:
Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists compound and dispense prescribed pharmaceuticals and provide consultative services to both clients and health care providers. They are employed in community and hospital pharmacies, or they may be self-employed. Industrial pharmacists participate in the research, development, promotion and manufacture of pharmaceutical products. They are employed in pharmaceutical companies and government departments and agencies. Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists compound and dispense prescribed pharmaceuticals and provide consultative services to both clients and health care providers. They are employed in community and hospital pharmacies, or they may be self-employed. Industrial pharmacists participate in the research, development, promotion and manufacture of pharmaceutical products. They are employed in pharmaceutical companies and government departments and agencies.

  • Click on any of the Essential Skills to view sample workplace tasks for this occupation.
  • Skill levels are assigned to tasks: Level 1 tasks are the least complex and level 4 or 5 tasks (depending upon the specific skill) are the most complex. Skill levels are associated with workplace tasks and not the workers performing these tasks.
  • Scroll down the page to get information on career planning, education and training, and employment and volunteer opportunities.

Table will display the Skill Level for the Noc specified
Essential Skills Essential Skills Levels
Reading Text Reading Text 1 2 3 4 5
Writing Writing 1 2 3 4 5
Document Use Document Use 1 2 3 4
Computer Use Computer Use 1 2 3
Oral Communication Oral Communication 1 2 3
Money Math Money Math 1
Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting 1 2 3
Measurement and Calculation Measurement and Calculation 1 2 3
Data Analysis Data Analysis 1 2 3 4
Numerical Estimation Numerical Estimation 1
Job Task Planning and Organizing Job Task Planning and Organizing 1 2 3
Decision Making Decision Making 1 2 3
Problem Solving Problem Solving 1 2 3
Finding Information Finding Information 1 2 3
Critical Thinking Critical Thinking 1 2 3 4


  • The skill levels represented in the above chart illustrate the full range of sample tasks performed by experienced workers and not individuals preparing for or entering this occupation for the first time.
  • Note that some occupational profiles do not include all Numeracy and Thinking Essential Skills.

If you would like to print a copy of the chart and sample tasks, click on the "Print Occupational Profile" button at the top of the page.


Reading Text
  • Read short letters from provincial and national professional associations confirming the dates, location and subjects for the next convention. (1)
  • Read the directions for use on prescription labels to ensure that the text is correct. (1)
  • Read short text on forms such as consent forms for release of medication records and drug reimbursement forms. (1)
  • Read daily log books or communication workbooks to locate information about concerns and issues that need to be addressed or problems that have to be resolved, such as illegible writing on prescriptions, lost prescription pads, cases of 'double doctoring' or incomplete patient records. (2)
  • Read bulletins from Health Canada and pharmaceutical companies outlining recently discovered undesirable effects of particular prescription drugs or changes in regulations and procedures with respect to drugs and natural health products. Refer to these bulletins to gain information which may affect the practice. (3)
  • Read drug monographs which support prescribing and dispensing decisions. For example, refer to the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (CPS) and to the United States Pharmacopoeia Dispensing Information (USPDI) to identify optimal drug dosages, indications, potential interactions, physiochemical characteristics, mechanism of action, absorption, biotransformation, side or adverse effects and counselling guidelines. Drug monographs contain complex medical terminology intended for health professionals. (4)
  • Read, and interpret provincial and federal legislation relating to the pharmaceutical field and assess its application to the practice. (4)
  • Pharmacists in hospital settings may read a patient's medical history form and care records to establish a patient care plan prior to administering a medication such as an antiretroviral combination regimen. They synthesize information paying close attention to aspects such as reactions to previous drugs and abnormalities evidenced in laboratory reports. This allows them to establish an overall picture of the patient and develop a protocol for monitoring treatment. (4)
  • Refer to reference manuals to determine if a particular prescription drug or non-prescription medication can be taken during pregnancy and lactation. Interpret information from the manuals to counsel pregnant and lactating women on the potential risks of the medication and provide alternatives if the particular drug or medication is unsuitable. (4)
  • Read trade publications such as Pharmacy Practice, Drug Topics, Chemist & Druggist Québec Pharmacie, Pharmactuel and L'Actualité pharmaceutique to stay abreast of emerging issues and trends in pharmacy. For example, read about the development of new prescription and non-prescription drugs or about research conducted on the effectiveness and risks associated with certain regimens or commercial products. Pharmacists are required to understand the scientific subject matter in these journals so that they can pass on current information and answer questions from patients and health professionals. (4)
  • Read scientific articles on drug treatments to assess their quality and accuracy. For example, review articles before publication in professional literature such as the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal. Read articles to further your understanding of care for specific groups within the patient population. Such articles are dense and complex. They contain specialized terminology and biostatistics intended for a scientific audience. They may require high-level inferences in light of pharmaceutical theory, regulations and practice. (5)
Back to Top

Writing
  • Write short notes to physicians to request information or clarification regarding drug orders. (1)
  • Write letters to doctors to offer opinions and suggestions about specific pharmaceuticals and drug regimens. For example, recommend a change in drug dosage, the addition of an Aspirin for a diabetic patient or an Aero chamber to facilitate the use of an inhaler. Make suggestions to resolve drug-related problems. Present recommendations, clear and logical explanations for the changes recommended and appropriate references. (2)
  • Write short memos to regulatory bodies alerting them of individuals suspected of receiving multiple prescriptions for drugs with abuse potential through 'double doctoring' or 'double pharmacy.'. (2)
  • Write letters to Health Canada officials notifying them of adverse effects of specific drugs experienced by patients. By reporting such effects, pharmacists contribute to early signal detection and play an important role in protecting the well-being of the population. (2)
  • Write comments in patients' files to maintain records of patient care provided and document actual or potential medication related problems. (2)
  • Write extensive procedures to be used by pharmacy staff when dispensing drugs. These procedures establish the rules, parameters and steps support staff must follow when accomplishing their tasks. These procedures must be explicit and precise to ensure consistent interpretations. (3)
  • Write brochures to inform other health professionals about such pharmaceutical topics as new drug treatments, therapeutic policies and procedures, health planning, HIV prevention or smoking cessation. The writing involves gathering and selecting information from various sources and summarizing it for an audience of health care providers. (4)
  • Write drug information articles to inform the public about pharmacy topics such as health promotion, disease screening and new drug therapies. Gather and select information from various sources and summarize it in a language and format suitable for a lay audience. (4)
  • Participate in the writing of research articles on the clinical investigation of pharmaceutical regimens for peer-reviewed journals. For example, write a dense and technical article about a trial comparing a docetaxel-based regimen with a standard anthracycline-based regimen in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. The writing involves explaining the background to the research and the research protocol, describing the difficulties encountered in conducting the investigation, analyzing data collected, discussing the results obtained, commenting on their statistical significance and drawing conclusions about the research outcomes. (5)
Back to Top

Document Use
  • Locate and retrieve data on forms. For example, refer to physician prescription forms to identify the type of drug and dosage prescribed to individual patients. (1)
  • Interpret a variety of icons to locate and navigate through pharmaceutical company, professional association, governmental and medical information websites. (2)
  • Monitor prescription labels to ensure they contain all necessary data. Check for the inclusion of information such as the patient's name, doctor's name, drug name, dosage, renewals and directions for use. (2)
  • Locate and retrieve data in tables. For example, review tables displaying test and measurement results which appear in laboratory reports to monitor how patients are reacting to drugs or regimens and to make dosage recommendations to doctors. Refer to tables in home health care catalogues to obtain product specifications and information about the benefits and limitations of particular products such as canes and walkers. Review tables of research data in scientific articles to gain information about the research results. (2)
  • Complete forms. For example, hospital pharmacists may write prescriptions for medications and their associated monitoring in specific settings such as laboratories and radiology. (2)
  • Read the ingredient listings on non-prescription drug labels to determine which products to recommend to patients based on patient-specific factors such as allergies, food intolerances and medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and glaucoma. (2)
  • Enter patient, prescription, drug inventory, financial and workload measurement information into electronic data entry forms. In some cases, combine data from several sources to accurately capture information to enter onto electronic documents. (3)
  • Interpret scale drawings including floor plans and architectural drawings for construction and renovations to pharmacies to ensure compliance with the legislation. (3)
  • Interpret graphs contained in pharmaceutical and medical journals, manuals, bulletins, monographs and websites to gain knowledge about drugs and regimens. Combine information from a number of graphs and accompanying texts to fully understand each drug's intended and adverse effects. (4)
Back to Top

Computer Use
  • Access professional association websites, search for information about particular drugs and find medical summaries in the Cochrane Reviews and the Medline on-line libraries. Search for information using electronic databases including those maintained by provincial health ministries for health records. (2)
  • Use word processing. For example, use basic page and character formatting features when writing letters to pharmaceutical representatives to inform them of the unanticipated side effects of a particular drug. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, send email messages with attached documents to physicians and other pharmacists outlining patient drug requirements. (2)
  • Use existing spreadsheets to record drug usage, financial or workload statistics and to generate monthly reports. (2)
  • Use custom databases to store information or retrieve patient files and maintain drug inventory records. Search databases on the CD ROM versions of the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (CPS), MICROMEDEX and Trissel's Stability of Compounded Formulations. (2)
  • Use graphics software. For example, prepare presentations on new drug treatments for patient care providers, importing word processing files, tables and graphs created with other software to effectively present information. (3)
Back to Top

Oral Communication
  • Talk to doctors to take prescriptions over the phone. (1)
  • Speak to pharmacy support staff and other pharmacists to give and receive routine instructions about work schedules and drug orders, preparation, dosage, delivery, storage, insurance, labelling, packaging, distribution or advertising. (1)
  • Interact with pharmaceutical company representatives and patient care providers such as doctors, nurses, other pharmacists, hospital discharge managers and anaesthesiologists to share information and solve problems relating to the properties, benefits, dosage, side effects and interactions of specific drugs. (2)
  • Exchange information and opinions in work team, committee and association meetings and give presentations to health care professionals on such matters as patient concerns, education or counselling; economic and business aspects of pharmacy; standards of practice; pharmacist education and continuing professional development programs; or assistance to new practitioners. (3)
  • Counsel patients about prescribed medications and non-prescription drugs such as cough syrups, decongestants and herbal remedies. Pharmacists must be able to clearly explain the purpose of each medication, how to take the medication, the importance of using it as directed and how long it takes before one can expect to see benefits. They identify other drugs which should be avoided and potential side effects. They have to stress the importance of seeing a doctor about serious adverse effects such as redness, itching and swelling in the facial area or breathing difficulty. They may also explain the results of scientific studies about controversial drugs to patients in plain language. (3)
  • Deal with verbally abusive, angry and threatening patients when refusing to fill prescriptions without dispensing instructions from doctors. When faced with such patients, pharmacists must communicate with them in firm and assertive tones to calm them down. As a last resort, they may have to contact the police should situations escalate to the point of potential physical violence. (3)
Back to Top

Money Math
  • Handle cash, credit card and debit card transactions and provide change to patients. (1)
Back to Top

Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting
  • Monitor drug inventories and determine the number of units of each product to order so as to ensure there are enough supplies on hand to fill out prescriptions. (2)
  • Plan work schedules for pharmacy support staff and other pharmacists, taking into account workload indicators and the need to distribute job tasks equitably. Pharmacists sometimes adjust work schedules because of vacation or sick leave. (3)
Back to Top

Measurement and Calculation
  • Count out pills when dispensing prescribed pharmaceuticals to patients. (1)
  • Convert a patient's weight from pounds to kilograms prior to determining the amount of drug which should be given. (2)
  • Calculate the volume of liquid medication to give when the dosage identified in a prescription is expressed as a weight. (2)
  • Calculate amounts of pharmaceuticals needed to create solutions and compounds. For example, calculate the amount of hydrocortisone powder to add to an ounce of ointment to obtain a 2% strength or measure the amount of liquid to add to an amount of antibiotic powder to create a syrup of the proper concentration expressed as milligrams per litre. (3)
  • Use a glucose meter to teach diabetic patients how to take precise measurements of their blood sugar levels and monitor their illness. (3)
  • Calculate a patient's creatinine clearance as a measure of renal impairment by inserting his serum creatinine level, weight, sex and age into a mathematical equation and solving the equation. (3)
Back to Top

Data Analysis
  • Compare the average use of one drug to that of another equivalent drug to determine adjustments required in inventory management and ordering. (1)
  • Compare quantitative data on the ingredients and price of non-prescription products such as headache medication and vitamins in order to make purchasing recommendations to patients. (3)
  • Monitor the pharmacokinetics of drugs such as gentamycine, vancomycine and lithium to ensure their effectiveness and lack of toxicity. This involves analysing the patient's blood data over a period of time and increasing or decreasing the drug dosage as required until a stable reading in the desired or therapeutic range is obtained. (4)
  • Analyze and interpret clinical trials on new pharmaceutical products to provide information to patients and correct misinformation. In industrial settings, calculate appropriate and relative statistics, such as risk reduction, relative risk reduction, absolute risk reduction and the number needed to treat. (4)
Back to Top

Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate the weight of patients by eyeballing, when exactitude is not required to determine drug dosage. (1)
  • Estimate the time required to fill a prescription, based on experience. (1)
Back to Top

Job Task Planning and Organizing
  • Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists experience competing demands on their time from patients needing prescriptions filled or enquiring about products; from doctors calling or faxing in prescriptions; and from co-workers and colleagues asking for clarifications or advice. They sequence multiple tasks for efficiency, effectiveness and safety. Their work is often team-oriented so their own tasks and work schedules are integrated with a team of pharmacy support staff, pharmacists and other health professionals to ensure safe and effective patient care. Industrial pharmacists prioritize their tasks independently based on changing circumstances. However, they must regularly revise their work plans to deal with unexpected events and issues as they arise. The ability to do this is critical to their job, as the failure to react immediately may have significant impacts on their organization, such as a declining reputation. They often coordinate their work with counterparts from international locations for the development, clinical investigation and promotion of new pharmaceutical products, as well as for the organization of training and professional development events for their peers and for medical personnel. Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists are responsible for training and assigning work to pharmacy support staff assisting them with providing pharmacy services. (3)
Back to Top

Decision Making
  • Make recommendations to doctors. For example, pharmacists may suggest that doctors increase their patients' antibiotic dosages above the normal range, based upon analysis of laboratory test results or other factors relating to the patients' illnesses. (1)
  • Decide which tasks to assign to the various staff. Make decisions taking into consideration the position and strengths of each staff member. (2)
  • Decide which over-the-counter remedy to suggest to patients enquiring about non-prescription drugs. Decisions are based on an analysis of answers obtained from the patients as to their symptoms; any other medications they are taking; allergies they may have; and on a comparison of the effectiveness, benefits and side effects of alternative remedies. A bad decision may result in a lack of effectiveness or an adverse outcome for the patient. (3)
  • Decide whether to fill or reject a prescription if there is a suspicion that it is forged. To help decide, examine the prescription and call the doctor to verify as appropriate. You may have to deal with an angry patient if you refuse to fill a prescription. (3)
  • Decide on the amount of drugs to order. Although the computerized database keeps a perpetual inventory and provides quantities, you may override its calculations and order more or less. This decision is critical because you must ensure there will be enough supplies on hand to fill all prescriptions, while optimizing profitability. (3)
  • Choose the best response to patients' medication-related problems accurately and within an appropriate timeframe, considering patient preference, medical significance and urgency. For example, refer patients to emergency rooms, to medical clinics or to other appropriate health professionals as appropriate. (3)
Back to Top

Problem Solving
  • A pharmacist suspects that people are fraudulently using doctors' names to call-in prescriptions. Ask questions to ascertain their identity and legitimacy before providing the prescription. For example, verify the provincial billing numbers and place of work. (1)
  • A patient comes in to renew a prescription but there is no renewal left. In such cases, pharmacists may call the patient's doctor to obtain a prescription. (1)
  • A doctor's writing is difficult to decipher on a prescription form. Consult co-workers or call the doctor directly to get clarification. (1)
  • Pharmacists who work in hospitals are sometimes unable to find drugs they do not have in stock for emergency cases. The situation is further complicated if it is happening on a late Friday night when wholesalers are closed. In such cases, they contact several hospitals until they locate the drug and arrange for the fastest possible delivery to the patient. Alternatively, they may choose substitute medication. (2)
  • Patients bring back blood pressure or glucose machines that are not functioning properly. Refer to the user manuals and go through the problem solving chart to identify the problem and corresponding solution. If the problem can't be solved using the chart, send the product back to the manufacturer and provide a new one to the patient as appropriate. (2)
  • A pharmacist suspects that a prescription has a dosage error. For example, for the last two years a patient's dosage was 50 mg and, in the new prescription, it is 25 mg. In such instances, contact the doctor to clarify the situation and, if the doctor has made a mistake, seek permission to dispense the correct dosage. (2)
  • Discover errors made by staff relating to drug dosage. Identify contributing factors and implement medication error management programs to prevent further errors. For example, develop strategies such as dosage charts which staff can refer to when dispensing drug orders. (3)
Back to Top

Finding Information
  • Find lists of medications taken by patients by referring to computerized databases. (1)
  • Find out if a particular prescription or non-prescription drug can be taken while pregnant or lactating by referring to the reference text Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. (2)
  • Refer to medical aid catalogues to help patients find the most appropriate product for their needs, such as a wheel chair, cane, lumbar support or blood pressure gauge. Refer to a variety of catalogues to review several options. (3)
  • Search new therapies for management or treatment of specific disease or condition. Consult web-based databases and articles, professional journals, primary and secondary clinical literature as well as basic science literature. (3)
  • Find detailed information about a drug such as its optimal dosage, indications, potential interactions, physiochemical characteristics, mechanism of action, absorption, biotransformation and side or adverse effects by searching appropriate references such as the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (CPS) and the United States Pharmacopoeia Dispensing Information (USPDI). Analyse and synthesize this information in order to counsel patients, doctors and other health care professionals. (3)
Back to Top

Critical Thinking
  • Evaluate the ethics of decisions such as releasing patient information to third parties including the police and insurance companies. Consider the applicable legislation and relevant principles of professional practice. (3)
  • Assess the validity of written narcotic prescriptions. Look up patients' files to review their previous prescriptions, check for alerts on stolen prescription pads on the computer system, consider the behaviour and appearance of patients or ask for identification cards. Failure to do so may result in drug diversion. (3)
  • Evaluate the completeness and clarity of written dispensing procedures developed for pharmacy technicians. Ensure that no crucial information has been left out nor implied to avoid misinterpretation and dispensing errors. (3)
  • Assess the therapeutic value of a wide variety of non-prescription products such as headache remedies, cough syrups and vitamins to make appropriate recommendations to patients. The assessment is based on an analysis of the active ingredients listed on products, information found in pharmaceutical industry and government bulletins, an assessment of the patient and patient feedback received. (3)
  • Assess the effectiveness of alternative pharmaceutical treatments. Research and analyse information from a variety of sources, including drug monographs. Compare information on each drug on aspects such as efficacy, potential interactions with other drugs, pharmacokinetics and potential side or adverse effects and cost-effectiveness. Justify assessments with sound evidence from the literature and provide recommendations which will have the most beneficial effects on patients' health. (4)
  • Critically review draft articles for publication in pharmaceutical journals. Evaluate the articles with respect to the soundness of the methodological approach, the validity of research outcomes, the consistency of explanations and results obtained, the clarity of text and the appropriateness of conclusions made in the light of pharmacy theory, regulations and practice. (4)
  • Critically assess therapies for selected diseases and conditions to determine the most effective. Review the current literature, analyzing the research findings, including methodology and biostatistics, to arrive at recommendations for specific patients or groups of patients. (4)
Back to Top

footer