Thriving…Not Surviving: The evolution of the Pharmacy Assistant

By Alice Vanderpol, 2018 Pharmacy Assistant of the Year

Ask yourself a few questions…

Are you growing? Is your job description evolving? Are you satisfied with where you are at the moment? Or do you feel stagnant, stuck in a rut, doing the same thing day in day out? Well this is YOUR time as a pharmacy assistant to shine and make a real impact in your workplace!

The world of pharmacy is changing and the role of the pharmacy assistant is evolving – it’s up to you whether you thrive or just survive!


The pharmacy industry has transformed into the business it is today through constant evolution; be that medications, professional services, therapies or patients. Today, pharmacies tend to be a one-stop shop; from weight loss clinics to sleep apnoea management, immunisations and counselling services just to name a few. For a pharmacy to thrive and not just survive in today’s climate, they must be able to distinguish themselves as an ultimate healthcare destination. To do so, I believe this comes down to the professional services on offer and how well the pharmacy delivers them.

Pharmacy assistants have evolved from humble assistants into critical influential members of the pharmaceutical world. In order for the business of pharmacy to thrive, the role of a
pharmacy assistant must be ever evolving alongside of it. Today, one pharmacy assistant is required to do the work of multiple teams or departments. We are the first aid officer, an accounts payable manager, a sleep apnoea specialist, nutritional expert, weight loss coach and even a training manager… you could call us pharmaceutical phenomenons! Pharmacy assistants have become the major backbone to a pharmacy; without them, a pharmacy is bound to deteriorate from the inside out.


The evolution of the pharmacy assistant is such an integral part in the thriving future of pharmacy. With ever increasing patient volume, disease states, technological advancement and workload for pharmacists, it has become necessary for ongoing change in the responsibilities that assistants are expected to manage. This in theory has created a better environment where a supported pharmacist and their business can thrive, and most importantly the customer is at the forefront. A well supported pharmacist can offer increased support to their customers, encouraging those who already feel vulnerable with their advice and assurance regarding new medications and other management methods.

In a thriving pharmacy, the number one priority is the customer and offering professional services to target their needs. If the pharmacist is time poor and overworked, having a pharmacy assistant trained and educated in the professional service they offer will not only benefit the pharmacist but importantly, the customer. If pharmacists continue to expand their clinical role in whichever sector they work, then it is logical that they will require more support in fulfilling their existing duties. Having pharmacy assistants to help with some of the excess workload is what will set your business apart and support it to thrive in a competitive environment.

How do we support our pharmacist?

  • Upskilling & education
  • Having a specialised role
  • A defined job description
  • Support from management

Education and upskilling is essential for pharmacy assistants to become more specialised, and offer increased support to pharmacists. An educated pharmacy assistant is a better pharmacy assistant and will add as much financial value to your business as a loyal customer. By supporting your pharmacist to offer more time for customers, your pharmacy will be able to offer more services that cover a larger scope of needs; therefore servicing a larger number of customers. By offering a greater role for both pharmacy assistants and pharmacists, your customers will value the expertise and knowledge of all staff, which in turn creates assurance and trust for your business.


Knowing your value and importance as an assistant is the key to thriving. And although adding new responsibilities to an already challenging workload may seem like a huge burden, it’s something that should be embraced. Increased autonomy and pharmacist-assistant partnership is sure to lead to increased efficiency, better patient care and higher job satisfaction.

The role of a pharmacy assistant is likely to expand significantly in the coming years. With that expansion, assistants may see opportunities for advanced professional training, increased salaries, and opportunities to specialise in certain aspects of patient care, such as pain management, paediatrics or mental health.

The future of pharmacy and pharmacy assistants relies heavily on the value we place on pharmacy assistants. Assistants are the wind beneath the pharmacist’s wings, and although many pharmacists regard their assistants very highly, some business may still have a way to go. I encourage you to make 2019 the year to start the conversation of how pharmacy assistants can better support your pharmacists and your businesses. With the evolution that has already occurred, there’s no telling where the pharmaceutical world may be in the next 20 years… will you and your workplace be thriving or just merely surviving?

Nominations for the 2019 Pharmacy Assistant of the Year open on 7 March 2019! Find out more at