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Many NGOs run medical projects ensuring that people who experience crises, conflicts or disasters, or those living in poverty, are able receive quality healthcare. As a result, almost all medical NGOs have a range of roles open to qualified pharmacists. If you are a trained pharmacist and interested in joining the NGO sector, check out of guide to some of the mostly commonly recruited NGO pharmacy roles…
A first job that pharmacists can take with an NGO is the role of Base Pharmacist. NGOs set-up field bases where they run their frontline projects. These are sub-offices of the main country office – usually based in the capital or major city. NGOs running health projects will hire a pharmacist for each base to oversee the storage and distribution of medical supplies.
The Base Pharmacist will usually report to the Health Project Officer, or the Field Coordinator in charge of the base. They will work directly with staff at health facilities to ensure they have the drugs they need to assist patients. The Base Pharmacist usually divides their time between the NGO pharmacy where drugs are stored before distribution, and health facilities.
How to Apply
You will need to be a trained pharmacist to take the role as a Base Pharmacist for an NGO. This is probably the most important factor. However, some understanding of NGO work, and NGO health projects in particular, would be beneficial.
A second NGO job that is often taken by a pharmacist is that of Medical Logistician. The Med Log is responsible for procuring, shipping and storing medical supplies. NGOs need to ensure they have a strong supply chain to get the drugs and supplies their medical projects need to the frontline. The Med Log has responsibility across this supply chain to ensure that drugs arrive on-time, and in a safe condition.
On an NGO mission the Med Log can is usually stationed at country office level, but with frequent travel to the bases. They are usually part of the NGO’s wider logistics team, and report to the Logistics Coordinator or Head of Support Services.
How to Apply
To apply to be a Med Log with an NGO you will need to have medical logistician qualification. Being a qualified pharmacist will give you many of the skills needed to do the role. However, adding a diploma in medical logistics would assist your application.
Health Project Officer
Another NGO job for pharmacists is the role of Health Project Officer. The Health Project Officer is usually the programme lead for an NGOs health projects at field-level. They are stationed at a field base and are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of operations. They usually report to either the Field Coordinator – who manages the base, or the Health Programme Manager stationed at the country office.
The Health Project Officer will usually work directly with health facilities, ensuring quality medical assistance is being provided and liaising with hospital staff. They often work very closely with the Base Pharmacist.
How to Apply
You will need a medical background to become a Health Project Officer with an NGO. Pharmacists are well-placed to apply for this position. However, as a project management role, you will also likely need some experience working on NGO programmes, ideally in a health capacity.
NGO Health Online Courses
If you are interested in working as an NGO pharmacist, Emory University offers an online course on Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies. We think it’s the best short course providing an overview of the key concepts of humanitarian health. Follow the link to the course’s page.
We also highly recommend the University of Copenhagen’s online short course in Non-Communicable Diseases in Humanitarian Settings. Only taking around 15 hours to complete, we think it’s a great addition to the CV of anyone applying for NGO pharmacy roles. Click the link to find out more.
Another great online course for those looking to become an NGO pharmacist is the Manchester University course Global Health and Humanitarianism. It takes a wider approach and looks at how humanitarian aid can address public health issues. The link is to the course’s page.
One of the more senior positions in the NGO sector that pharmacists can take is Medical Coordinator. This is the top position on an NGO’s mission overseeing the NGO’s health programming. The Med Co is usually based at the NGO’s country office, but will travel frequently to the field to engage with project teams.
The Med Co will usually line-manage a Deputy Med Co. As the Medical Coordinator is usually an expatriate position, the Deputy Med Co is a national staff role. The Med Co ultimately manages the entire NGO medical team across the mission.
How to Apply
There are many pharmacists who rise to the level of Medical Coordinator in NGOs. As a senior management position, you will need significant experience working on NGO health projects in order to apply for Med Co positions with most NGOs.
Health Programme Manager
Pharmacists are often employed by NGOs as Health Programme Managers. The job of the Health Programme Manager is to directly oversee the NGOs health projects. In many ways the role is similar to that of the Medical Coordinator. However, the Health Programme Manager’s focuses more heavily on project implementation, and less of strategic level decisions, proposal writing and grant management.
The Health Programme Manager will usually report to the Head of Programmes, or the Country Director. They will usually be based at the NGO’s country office, but will move often to field bases. The Health Programme Manager overseas a team of Project Officers who assist with implementing the NGO’s health programmes.
How to Apply
You will need some years’ experience working on NGO health projects in order to apply for Health Programme Manager positions. You will also need to be medically qualified. Being a trained pharmacist is a great foundation to taking a role as a Health Programme Manager with an NGO.
Pharmacy Team Leader
A final NGO job that pharmacists often take is the role of Pharmacy Team Leader. Large medical NGOs will have pharmacies across their field bases. They will also have a large central pharmacy at the country office that will store drugs that are shipped into the country before sending them out to field bases. The role of the Pharmacy Team Leader is to oversee the NGOs pharmacy network, as well as line manage the pharmacists across the bases.
The Pharmacy Team Leader has ultimate responsibility for drugs and medical equipment across an NGO’s mission. This means working closely with the Med Log and wider logistics team to ensure drugs are imported, stored and moved to field bases safely and in time to meet the programmes needs.
How to Apply
NGOs recruiting Pharmacy Team Leaders will be looking to hire qualified pharmacists. As a mid-level management position, some experience working on NGO projects will be needed, as well as practical experience working as a pharmacist.
If you want to know more about working in a healthcare role in the NGO sector, explore our page of the top NGO health online courses here. If you want to learn more about working in the NGO sector in general, see our page of the top NGO online courses here.