Pharmacists see themselves as having nine different identities, suggesting they have a flexible role but are unclear about the future direction and identity of the profession, according to a study carried out by Manchester University's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Services.
Pharmacists associate themselves with a range of different identities from scientist and medicines adviser to social carer and business person, the study found.
Most of the 43 community, hospital and PCT pharmacists, who were interviewed about how they perceived themselves and how they thought others saw them, identified themselves above all as scientists, with many saying that their scientific knowledge was applied practically in the supply of medicines.
Pharmacists identified themselves above all as scientists, but many also saw themselves as business people and managers
More on pharmacy's role
Community pharmacists thought that many patients looked to them for the quick and accurate supply of medicines, while some saw themselves as business people and managers, according to the study published online in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice on January 18.
Many expressed a "fondness" for the role of the old-fashioned medicine maker, as they recalled a pharmacy with "the old bottles in the window". This suggested that, despite policy makers' aspirations for the profession, pharmacists had "never regained as clear or as strong an identity as that of the traditional maker of medicines", the researchers said.
Some pharmacists said their skills were not recognised or appreciated as much as they could be and that there was more work to be done to promote them.
Some spoke of their image as either unseen or anonymous in the real world and one community pharmacist said they needed a role model in a television soap to help better portray the profession.
Nine was a high number of identities to find among members of a single profession, the authors concluded.
"Perhaps to some extent this is a reflection of pharmacy's leadership rhetoric, which results in role ambiguity and lack of clear direction and ownership of what makes pharmacists unique," they said.
"On the other hand, so many identities may be a sign that practising pharmacists simply have a sophisticated or multi-faceted self-concept and a flexible view of their roles, given the wide range of sectors in which they work and the range of duties they perform," they added.
The nine identities of pharmacists
Scientist the strongest professional identity, which overlapped with others such as the role of medicines maker.
Medicines adviser Pharmacists offer an environment where patients are "feel free to ask for help and advice if they need to".
Clinical practitioner Pharmacists saw this as work "undertaken at the level of the individual, which involves applying knowledge about medicines to a person's condition".
Social carer A trusted community figure.
Medicines maker There was some nostalgia for the days of mixing up cough medicine which "customers used to come especially for".
Medicines supplier Patients want pharmacists to be "willing to supply medicines, supplying them quickly and doing so accurately".
Manager Pharmacist managers, although they do not own the business themselves, expressed a sense of pride about successfully running a shop.
Business person Pharmacists refute the image of the shop keeper, but are proud of running businesses.
The unremarkable character They feel their "skills are not recognised or appreciated as much as they could be."
As a pharmacist, how do you identify yourself?