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Pharmacists Are Not Social Workers: Opinion

December 17, 2020

cawleyAs pharmacists, we are the first health care provider that a patient may see on their quest for better health. We work with our patients everyday to make sure they utilize nonprescription and prescription medications to improve their quality of life. In addition, our relationships with our patients help us understand other personal and psychosocial struggles they may be experiencing. Although we would like to assist our patients with these other challenges, we are usually overwhelmed with other responsibilities to discuss other services that our patients may benefit from.  

Recently, I read about a new pilot program from a chain drug store that assists patients with information including directions of how patients can access community services, help with housing, food, transportation, and more. The pilot is part of a series of health business programs focused on helping people improve their health outside of the clinical setting. When a patient picks up their prescription the program alerts the pharmacy employee to talk to the patient about program options. Once they are enrolled in the program, they are able to connect with community-based organizations to help address their need. 1

Although I applaud this chain drug store to expand opportunities for pharmacists, I am concerned that the pharmacist will be doing more social worker activities. The role of the social worker is to assist patients with many of these psychosocial challenges they may have including community services that can help them leave more independent lives. Also, this is just another role added to the long list of pharmacist’s responsibilities. Let pharmacists focus on their role as the medication expert instead of trying to take on social worker responsibilities. If this chain drug store wants to provide this service, than please hire the expertise of a social worker.

Michael J. Cawley, PharmD, RRT, CPFT, FCCM, has more than 25 years of experience practicing in the areas of medical, surgical, trauma, and burn intensive care as both a critical care clinical pharmacist and registered respiratory therapist.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Population Health Learning Network. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.


U.S. News. Addressing social determinants of health at the pharmacy. Accessed November 20, 2020.

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