Complementing or conflicting? How pharmacists and physicians position the community pharmacist

Keywords: Interprofessional Relations, Intersectoral Collaboration, Primary Health Care, Physicians, Pharmacists, Attitude of Health Personnel, Social Behavior, Focus Groups, Qualitative Research, Norway


Background: Interprofessional collaboration between pharmacists and physicians in primary care has been linked to improved patient outcomes. How professionals position themselves and each other can shed light upon their relationship, and positioning theory can be used as a tool to better understand intergroup relations.

Objectives: 1) To identify how community pharmacists position themselves, and how they are positioned by general practitioners. 2) To assess how well these positions correspond, how the positions align with a proactive position for the pharmacists, and discuss how the positions could potentially impact collaboration.

Methods: In this qualitative study, data were collected through six focus group interviews held between June and October 2019, three with pharmacists and three with physicians. The focus group interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide. Data were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using the Systematic text condensation method. Positioning theory was used as a theoretical framework to identify the positions assigned to community pharmacists by the pharmacists themselves and by the physicians.

Results: Twelve pharmacists and ten physicians participated. The pharmacists positioned themselves as the “last line of defense”, “bridge-builders”, “outsiders” – with responsibility, but with a lack of information and authority – and “practical problem solvers”. The physicians positioned pharmacists as “a useful checkpoint”, “non-clinicians” and “unknown”.

Conclusions: The study revealed both commonalities and disagreements in how community pharmacists position themselves and are positioned by general practitioners. Few of the positions assigned to pharmacists by the physicians support an active role for the pharmacists, while the pharmacists´ positioning of themselves is more diverse. The physicians´ positioning of pharmacists as an unknown group represents a major challenge for collaboration. Increasing the two professions´ knowledge of each other may help produce new positions that are more coordinated, and thus more supportive towards collaboration.


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Author Biography

Reidun L. Kjome




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How to Cite
Rakvaag H, Søreide GE, Meland E, Kjome RL. Complementing or conflicting? How pharmacists and physicians position the community pharmacist. Pharm Pract (Granada) [Internet]. 2020Sep.16 [cited 2021Jul.26];18(3):2078. Available from:
Original Research