The Australian pharmacist role holds significant importance within the healthcare system of the country. Pharmacists in Australia are authorized healthcare professionals responsible for supplying medications to the public. They undergo formal training and registration and dispense medications based on prescriptions or medical orders. While other healthcare practitioners may also be authorized to supply medications directly to patients, pharmacies are typically the primary source of medication, obtaining them from wholesalers.
In Australia, the law mandates that individuals with a financial interest in a pharmacy must hold a pharmacy registration, and a pharmacist must oversee and supervise the operations of every pharmacy business. The number of pharmacies in which a person can have a financial interest varies based on state legislation. For instance, in New South Wales and Victoria, a pharmacist can have a financial interest in up to 5 pharmacies.
As of June 2014, there were over 25,000 pharmacists in Australia, with the majority employed in the pharmacy sector. Most pharmacists have completed a pharmacy degree from one of the 17 accredited pharmacy schools in the country, which graduate approximately 2,000 students annually.
To become a registered pharmacist in Australia, students must complete an accredited degree program recognized by the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC). This can be a 4-year Bachelor of Pharmacy or a 2-year Master of Pharmacy, followed by a year of supervised practice in an approved setting. Several professional organizations represent pharmacists and various aspects of pharmacy practice in the country.
The Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) plays a critical role in accrediting pharmacy schools, programs, and intern training programs in Australia. It ensures the quality of pharmacy training and administers written examinations that interns must pass, followed by a final oral exam conducted by the Pharmacy Board of Australia (PBA). Successful completion of these exams allows graduates to apply for registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Pharmacists must engage in mandatory continuing professional development, with a requirement of at least 40 credits annually, to maintain their registration, a policy introduced in 2010.
Overseas-qualified pharmacists, excluding those from New Zealand, must pass an examination conducted by the APC and complete a supervised practice period assigned by the PBA before being eligible for general practice registration in Australia. Conversely, pharmacists with an Australian pharmacy degree must fulfill a supervised practice period and potentially additional studies before practicing independently in countries other than New Zealand.
Pharmacy technicians and assistants also play a crucial role in supporting pharmacists in community and hospital pharmacies across Australia. In community settings, they assist with dispensing medicines, providing over-the-counter medications, and handling administrative tasks such as stock refilling. In hospital settings, technicians aid in dispensing ward stock, manufacturing, aseptic compounding, and administrative duties. While no formal educational qualifications or registration requirements are mandated by legislation for ancillary staff members, guidelines from the PBA recommend that dispensing technicians and assistants undertake recognized training courses relevant to their role.
Pharmacists in Australia have a broad scope of practice. The National Competency Standards Framework for Pharmacists in Australia outlines that they utilize their expertise in medicines to optimize health outcomes and minimize medication errors and adverse effects.