Today I think it is time to give a little advice to pharmacy students and graduates. I’m no expert on what it means to be a pharmacist but I’ve worked in the field long enough to learn a few valuable lessons. I hope these words will help someone.
1. Take your time. Contrary to popular belief, community pharmacy is not about filling prescriptions as fast as humanly possible. No one will ever come after your license for taking the time necessary to fill each prescription correctly. Don’t worry about how other pharmacists pace themselves, they may or may not be doing as thorough of a job as you should be with each prescription order.
2. Talk to patients. Talking to patients is the good part of my job. I admit that I have my fair share of patients who make me so angry I could scream. But at the end of the day patient counseling is one of the most rewarding parts of being a pharmacist. Don’t be afraid to go talk to patients even if it isn’t in your nature to be an outgoing person.
3. Learn from more experienced pharmacists. Pharmacy school instructors, preceptors, and colleagues have a lot of knowledge to share. Learn from pharmacists who have been around the block. Mistakes and experience are the best teachers, but mentors aren’t a bad choice for gaining knowledge about the profession of pharmacy either.
4. Get Involved and Stay Informed. The days of passively pursuing your own career while ignoring the bigger picture are long gone (if they ever existed). Keep a pulse on the developments that impact the profession of pharmacy any way you can. Being informed will better prepare you for the next wave of change. Joining organizations, going to board of pharmacy meetings, or writing letters to politicians are all ways to become more involved.
5. Learn from your mistakes. Despite the expectations of perfection, pharmacists are human. We make mistakes just like everyone else. I’ve made more than my fair share of prescription mistakes and judgement errors. Although I freely recognize that I’m not perfect, I desperately attempt to learn from my mistakes in the hopes that I won’t repeat them in the future.
6. Have fun. I’m not immune to the negatives of my job or the frustrations that come with being a pharmacist. But I also try to have fun at work. With the right people and the right attitude and outlook, you can enjoy the job of pharmacist. Some days I am better at keeping my frustrations at bay. Other days those frustrations can get the best of me. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of negativity surrounding pharmacy. My goal is to remember the positives so those moments can get me through the negatives.
7. Ask questions. Don’t ever make assumptions. With people’s lives at stake, assumptions could literally kill. If a dose looks wrong, call the prescriber. If a patient is confused about how to take a medication, explain it to them even if you’ve done so already in the past. There is a circle of care involving the patient and all the healthcare providers that treat that individual. We should all be on the same page.
8. Follow your own path. It’s your career, find what you enjoy and pursue those opportunities. Don’t be afraid to try something completely out of your comfort zone either. You never know where you will find that dream job or golden opportunity.
Being a pharmacist is a demanding but rewarding job. In the end, you have to trust your abilities and hope that you can help every patient as much as possible. Anyone that asks more than that from you is simply demanding too much.
The Redheaded Pharmacist