Journey to becoming a Critical Care Pharmacist
Currently, all pharmacists complete a 4-year MPharm undergraduate degree, followed by a training year in their chosen sector – community, hospital, primary care, or the pharmaceutical industry. Approximately 10-15% of pharmacists choose hospital training, with the majority of the rest choosing community pharmacy1. Examination and registration with the General Pharmaceutical Council follows the training year, at which point the newly qualified pharmacist applies for jobs within their preferred sector.
A post-registration hospital pharmacist will undertake a rotational job role (Agenda for Change Band 6), completing foundation training in many of the common specialties (e.g. medicine, surgery, paediatrics) and departments within pharmacy (e.g. medicines information, aseptic manufacturing). During this time, they will start working towards their postgraduate diploma in Clinical Pharmacy – which takes up to 2 years to achieve and may or may not include a prescribing qualification. This is soon to change, as from 2026 trainee pharmacists will qualify as prescribers at the point of registration2.
As the pharmacist becomes more experienced, they apply for more senior roles (AfC Band 7) and begin to choose a clinical area to specialise in. This is often the first point that a pharmacist will manage patients in the critical care setting, and they will need supervision from an advanced specialist pharmacist to care for complex patients. During this time, they can begin working towards the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) Advanced Pharmacy Framework (APF)3.
When suitably experienced, the pharmacist may apply for Advanced Specialist Pharmacist roles (AfC Band 8a) and may consider completing advanced level training within their speciality e.g. a critical care masters. Their role will change to include professional support activity (guideline development and implementation, management of medicines expenditure, education and training, research and evaluation). At larger hospitals, there may be opportunity to progress to a team-leader/manager role within critical care (AfC Band 8b). During this time, they may continue working towards the RPS APF curriculum, which can take up to 10 years to achieve Mastery level, before applying for assessment for RPS Faculty membership4.
To progress further, as a Consultant Critical Care Pharmacist (AfC Band 8b-8d), the pharmacist must complete the RPS Consultant Pharmacist credentialing process. This involves providing evidence of communication skills, working across organisational boundaries , influencing policy decision at a wider level (e.g. nationally), contribution to education with the multi-professional team, and leading on research and evaluation. A Consultant Pharmacist would be recognised beyond their own Hospital Trust as an expert and a leader.
- https://doi.org/10.1177/1751143718769043 Borthwick, M. The role of the pharmacist in the intensive care unit. Intensive Care Society, 2018. Vol 20 Issue 2.