RN to Pharmacist: What to Expect?

Going from RN to pharmacist is a big decision. The transition from nursing to pharmacy school may take years, depending if you have an ADN or BSN degree.

Although a nurse and a pharmacist may find themselves working in the same facilities and passing out drugs to patients, the two fields are very different careers and, hence, require different preparations.

Well look at what you should expect, along with how long it takes to go from a registered nurse to a pharmacist in this article.

Transition from RN to pharmacist: How many years more?

The following areas and aspects of the two professions will be significantly distinct from the other:

Education and Training

A student becomes an RN via several routes – by acquiring a nursing diploma from a hospital offering a nursing program, or by obtaining a two-year associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a 4-year bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from a college or university. The question would then be – will this background prepare the RN for pharmacy?

Pre-pharmacy coursework

Admission to pharmacy programs requires 2 years of college education before students can be admitted to the 4-year Doctor of Pharmacy degree, or Pharm. D.

The two-year pre-pharmacy college coursework typically includes general education classes, but must include classes in biology, chemistry, physics, higher math and calculus, anatomy, physiology and biochemistry.

Nurses, especially those with BSN education, have taken most of those courses. In certain cases, however, they may need to take additional pre-pharmacy coursework.

Pharm.D. coursework

Assuming that the registered nurse has all the prerequisites and gets admitted to the Pharm. D. program, it normally takes full 4 years to complete the degree.

The nursing degree focuses on the practice and administration of the nursing profession, and not on the science involved in healthcare and pharmacology.

It is very likely that the educational background of an RN will be recognized as completion of the prerequisites only, and will not make a dent at all on the RN to pharmacy degree program.

Experience and Specialization

RNs with certain specialties, extensive experience administering drugs, or advanced trainings as nurse practitioners, will definitely have an advantage over other students entering the pharmacy field.

Unfortunately, they may not be given credit for their nursing specialties, experience or training.

In fact, there might be courses, both in the nursing and pharmacy degrees, with similar titles, but these will be different from each other in terms of depth and breadth.

It will be best to refer to the school of pharmacy’s admissions in-charge for the actual evaluation of subjects and crediting of units earned.

How to go from RN to pharmacist

1. Qualify for the Pharm. D. degree.

Consider several accredited pharmacy programs. Narrow down to a few programs after considering the tuition, location, passing rates in the licensure, and other factors.

Visit the university where the degree is offered with your transcript of record from last school attended. Inquire further about their program.

Have your school records evaluated and see if you get credit for courses taken, and if you comply with all the entry prerequisites. The courses from a BSN usually suffice the prerequisite coursework.

Take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT), if required. Not all programs require the PCAT.

2. Complete the 4-year doctor of pharmacy degree program.

The 4-year program entails hard and intensive work. The following is a brief outline of the courses covered.

First year: physiology, cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, medicines and their characteristics, physical pharmacy, pharmaceuticals and formulation, mathematics and pharmaceutical calculations.

Second year: microbiology, biochemistry, practice of pharmacy, molecular pharmacology and chemotherapy, pharmaceutical biotechnology, and more in-depth study of previous courses.

Third year: medicinal and pharmaceutical chemistry, natural sources of drugs, data analysis and bioinformatics, veterinary pharmacy, endocrine and reproductive pharmacology, respiratory and gastrointestinal pharmacology, blood and cardiovascular pharmacology, renal pharmacology, and deeper understanding of the practice of pharmacy.

Fourth year: advanced drug delivery, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, biopharmaceuticals and drug metabolism, ectoparasitides and natural remedies, addiction pharmacy, neuropharmacology, malignant disease, immunopharmacology, pharmacology of the eye, practice of pharmacy, and electives. During the senior year, a research project is usually required.

3. Comply with the practical training required.

Internship is required by most states – either incorporated in the program curriculum or done after the degree is completed.

Training in the actual work setting allows the student or the graduate to acquire supervised experience beyond the classroom. They get first-hand practical learning from licensed pharmacists.

4. Take and pass the licensure exam.

All pharmacy graduates must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) given by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) before they can practice their profession.

Aside from this, most states require that they pass the Multi-state Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), and the standard criminal background check. Some states, such as California and Virginia, require additional law exams for pharmacists.

To retain the license, pharmacists must obtain continuing education every year.

What career opportunities are open for pharmacists?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 14% increase in employment for pharmacists from 2012 to 2022. Pharmacists enjoy a median annual salary of $119,280 as of May 2013 BLS data. At this point, it might be worthwhile to note that RNs earn an annual mean wage of $70,590.

While most pharmacists work in drug retail dispensing, they have broad employment opportunities, be it in private or public healthcare systems.

They are commonly found working in research labs, policy-making committees, pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, healthcare administration and drug rehabilitation centers.

Their responsibilities encompass the various aspects of pharmacy – dispensing, manufacturing, research and development, quality control, administration, finance, consulting, sales, and marketing.

To become more relevant in their various roles, pharmacists may acquire additional training and specialization through 1- or 2-year residency or fellowship programs in a particular field, such as geriatrics pharmacology or biomedical research.
They can take graduate studies in one of the pharmaceutical sciences through a master’s (MSc) or doctor’s degree (PhD).

Is going from RN to pharmacist an option for you?

Having read what to expect from an RN to pharmacist degree program, are you ready to leave the profession that enabled you to provide direct patient care? Will you be happy with the roles of a pharmacist?

More often than not, a pharmacist works at the side lines of the long list of healthcare services. This does not mean, however, that the pharmacist’s job is less important, because it is very important.

Are you ready to take the long haul (4 years!) to complete the Pharm. D. degree and additional year-or-so for training and licensure? It’s not a career for everyone, but it could be a fulfilling one for you.

I hope this provides information about going from RN to pharmacist.

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