Pharmacists in Australia play a crucial role in the country’s healthcare system, with a diverse and large health workforce that comprises various categories of healthcare practitioners. As of 2013, there were over 591,503 registered healthcare practitioners in Australia, and more than half of them were nurses and midwives, while over 100,000 were medical practitioners.
Authorized pharmacists in Australia are the only healthcare professionals allowed to supply medications to the public. These pharmacists are individuals with the appropriate formal training and registration, and they supply medications to patients based on prescriptions or medical orders. Although other healthcare professionals such as medical practitioners, dentists, nurse practitioners, midwives, optometrists, and podiatrists can also obtain authorization to supply medications directly to patients, patients typically get their medications from a pharmacy, which obtains medications from wholesalers.
The law in Australia stipulates that anyone with a pecuniary interest in a pharmacy must hold a pharmacy registration, and a pharmacist must be in charge of and supervise the operations of every pharmacy business. The number of pharmacies in which a person can have a pecuniary interest varies depending on the state legislation. For example, in New South Wales and Victoria, a pharmacist can have a pecuniary interest in up to 5 pharmacies.
As of June 2014, there were more than 25,000 pharmacists in Australia, with over 21,000 of them working in the pharmacy sector. The majority of these pharmacists had completed a pharmacy degree from one of the 17 accredited pharmacy schools in the country, which graduate close to 2,000 students annually.
To become a registered pharmacist in Australia, students must complete a degree program accredited by the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC). This can either be a 4-year Bachelor of Pharmacy or a 2-year Master of Pharmacy, followed by one year of supervised practice in an approved practice setting. Several professional organizations represent pharmacists and different aspects of pharmacy and pharmacy practice in the country.
The Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) plays a crucial role in the accreditation of pharmacy schools, pharmacy programs, and intern training programs in Australia. It oversees the quality of pharmacy training and administers written examinations that interns must pass before undertaking a final oral exam administered by the Pharmacy Board of Australia (PBA). Successful completion of both the written and oral examinations allows graduates to apply for registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Mandatory continuing professional development, introduced in 2010, is required for pharmacists to maintain their registration, with at least 40 continuing professional development credits annually.
Overseas-qualified pharmacists who are not from New Zealand are required to pass an examination conducted under the APC and complete a period of supervised practice assigned by the PBA before they can register for general practice in Australia. On the other hand, pharmacists with an Australian pharmacy degree must complete a period of supervised practice and sometimes additional study before being allowed to practice independently in countries other than New Zealand.
Pharmacy technicians and assistants also play a vital role in supporting pharmacists in community and hospital pharmacies in Australia. In community settings, they may dispense medicines, supply over-the-counter medicines, and perform administrative tasks such as refilling stock. In hospital settings, technicians assist with dispensing ward stock, manufacturing, aseptic compounding, and administration duties. While ancillary staff members are not required by legislation to hold any formal educational qualification or registration requirements, PBA guidelines recommend that all dispensing technicians and assistants undertake recognized training courses relevant to their role.
Pharmacists working in Australia have an extremely broad scope of practice. The National Competency Standards Framework for Pharmacists in Australia states that pharmacists use their expertise in medicines to optimize health outcomes and minimize medication misadventure