Balancing collaborative and independent practice roles in clinical pharmacy: a qualitative research study

Ann Pharmacother. 2015 Feb;49(2):189-95. doi: 10.1177/1060028014561473. Epub 2014 Nov 26.


Background: Clinical pharmacists (CPs) with a scope of practice operate as direct care providers and health care team members. Research often focuses on one role or the other; little is understood about the dynamic relationship between roles in practice settings.

Objective: To identify the challenges CPs face in balancing dual roles as direct care providers and health care team members and the implications for CP effectiveness and quality of care.

Methods: Pharmacists were interviewed with a primary purpose of informing an implementation effort. Besides the implementation, there were emergent themes regarding the challenges posed for CPs in negotiating dual roles. This study is, therefore, a secondary analysis of semistructured interviews and direct observation of 48 CPs, addressing this phenomenon. Interview data were entered into NVivo 10 and systematically analyzed using an emergent thematic coding strategy.

Results: Pharmacists describe role ambiguity, where they perform as direct providers or team members simultaneously or in quick succession. They note the existence of a "transaction cost," where switching causes loss of momentum or disruption of work flow. Additionally, pharmacists feel that fellow providers lack an understanding of what they do and that CP contributions are not evaluated accurately by other health professionals.

Conclusion: It is a challenge for CPs to balance the distinct roles of serving as collaborators and primary providers. Frequent role switching is not conducive to optimal work efficiency or patient care. Our findings suggest concrete steps that medical centers can take to improve both CP worklife and quality of patient care.

Keywords: Veterans Affairs; direct care providers; health care teams; pharmacy services; quality of care; role ambiguity; worklife.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / methods*
  • Professional Role
  • Qualitative Research