Recommendations and Doubts

   I had an interesting discussion at work the other day with the evening technician on duty.  She asked me why I chose pharmacy and if it was always my career choice.

   The second question is an easy answer of no for me.  My response to the first question is a bit more complicated. 

    Back in the day, I grew up with aspirations of becoming a medical doctor.  My interest in science and medicine with a healthy fascination of just how the human body worked steered me towards medicine.

     But as I entered college, something happened.  I volunteered at a local hospital in their emergency department.  And while I was there I talked with practicing physicians, interns, and medical students about my career interests. 

      Guess what happened?  Not one of those doctors or medical students recommended medicine as a career. In fact, they were more likely to advise me to avoid the career completely.

     Just think about that for a moment.  The career you always thought you wanted for yourself was suddenly shunned by everyone you could find that was actually working within that field. 

     Naturally, I became worried that medicine really wasn’t for me.  And then I talked to a couple of pharmacists.  The rest, as they say, is history. 

     I then spoke with a couple of pharmacists about a career in pharmacy.  They recommended pharmacy without hesitation.  These pharmacists loved what they did and enjoyed their interactions with patients.

     Pharmacy seemed to offer the work/home balance I was interested in maintaining.  I didn’t want to be “married to the hospital” as a couple of the interns warned. 

     Pharmacy also seemed like a better fit for my personality.  It was more laid back.  People were comfortable talking with pharmacists.  Doctors just seem to be more intimidating to the average patient. 

    Now fast forward several years after my career plans were in place.  Could I still say the same positive things about pharmacy today as I heard from others back then?  Would I recommend the profession to a young student who came to me now? 

    Pharmacy has become more challenging since my days in pharmacy school.  A whole host of changes have been ushered in that impact my work and my profession.

    But I honestly still think pharmacy is a good profession.  I’d still consider becoming a pharmacist to be a smart career path.  Pharmacy has been good to me. 

    But I qualify the above statements with words of caution.  Pharmacy is at a critical crossroads.  More changes are coming.  More challenges must be faced. 

    And we do now live in a “fast food pharmacy” era.  The insurance industry and the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) world negatively impacts our professional lives.

    But all is not lost.  I refuse to believe that a group of highly educated professionals will be reduced to nothing by organizations driven by greed and power.  We are better than that aren’t we?

    Pharmacy still attracts highly qualified bright students.  We have future leaders in the wings sitting in pharmacy classes all over the world right now.  That fact gives me hope. 

    But bright people joining the profession isn’t enough.  We need to be active pharmacists.  We need to be involved pharmacists.  We need to put on our boxing gloves and swing for the fences. 

    I’m not sure if I’d get the same glowing recommendations from other retail pharmacists today as I did all those years ago.  And to me, that doubt is a shame. 

     But that change in sentiment demonstrates the battles that the profession now faces.  And it highlights the urgency with which we should treat them. 

     So yes, if a student asks me about the profession of pharmacy I will give my enthusiastic recommendation.  But it will be tempered with cautions and doubts.  I simply want to be honest with anyone that asks me. 

     I just hope as our profession continues to evolve there is less doubt and fear among us.  The future can be a scary proposition.  But the profession of pharmacy doesn’t have to be feared or spoken of in the past tense.  It’s still our profession.

The Redheaded Pharmacist


3 Comments to “Recommendations and Doubts”

  1. By Ron Lavine, D.C., April 22, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing frankly. I am a veteran doctor of chiropractic and though there’s a lot I love about my profession, I too would think twice before recommending it to a young person just starting their career. So much has changed in the whole health care arena. Though we know more and more strongly how important the personalized approach is in healthcare, it seems that the reimbursement system conspires against it all the more.

    Many of my patients don’t have a regular working relationship with a pharmacist and don’t know how important it is to their health to have one. To many, a pharmacist is just a generic person wearing a white coat behind the counter, not someone who is highly knowledgeable about medications, their interactions and side effects. If a patient ever has a question about a drug they’re taking, I always suggest they ask their pharmacist. Typically, their pharmacist will know more than their primary care physician about it.


  2. By Dani, April 27, 2013 @ 6:30 am

    Nicely written and very well said. Personally, I still enjoy the profession of pharmacy very much and don’t regret my choice at all. However, I too would recommend this career choice to searching student with more caution and a few more caveats than I would have even four or five years ago.

    I believe the profession has a lot to offer and for the most part, a lot of pharmacists have had to bow to the whims and ways of administrators that have no medical background and who do not see the true value these highly-trained professionals have to offer…even to the benefit of their organizations. I don’t lose heart though. You’re right… We ARE better than that!

    For those who do choose to enter into this profession, I say come on in. We can use all the bright and eager minds that we can get.


  3. By Chris, February 15, 2014 @ 8:53 am

    About a year ago, I got a phone call from my uncle, a retired MD (radiologist) living 3,000 miles away. His grandson had just had ear surgery and he had medication questions. It was the weekend, and current treatment wasn’t working. I downloaded the Sanford Guide to assist him with an antibiotic alternative. The consult took about an hour. I made a recommendation, after much discussion. A new effective treatment was arranged, and he was very much appreciative of my effort. At this time, I was working as a call center pharmacist. It involved fielding 200+ calls per shift. A “business manager” coached me weekly on this job, to help me maintain an average call time (AHT) of less than 120 seconds. How ironic, that it takes work outside my regular job (helping my uncle) to find professional satisfaction. As I look for a new job right now, I’m thinking, if I end up working in a retail pharmacy, perhaps I should limit my weekly schedule to 24 hours and test the waters working as an independent MTM RPh, with a hope insurance will cover those services. Something I’m looking into, anyway. If it takes being away from our jobs to fully realize our potential as pharmacists, maybe we should do more of this for fulfillment and promoting our profession.


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