Beyond the four walls: Professional alternatives for pharmacists


For some pharmacists, leaving behind corporate constraints can be the start of something big.

Optimism is an admirable state of mind. When reality, no matter how stressful, is clearly presented in facts and figures, an optimist might greet it as a bringer of opportunity. A community pharmacist who can hold onto optimism despite becoming a casualty in the ongoing “war against gray-hairs” in retail chain pharmacy might say, “Well, when one door closes another opens.”

 The simplest among us keep hoping for another flood of salary windfalls in chain pharmacy. But gone are the days when pharmacists were chased with fat signing bonuses and juicy salaries. The reality today is that employment prospects are diminishing in retail pharmacy.

Some forward-thinking pharmacists have cited the Affordable Care Act as another opportunity for a gold rush in community practice. The painful twist here, however, is the seemingly overwhelming national debt. Can the federal government accommodate another financial burden? Can retail pharmacies survive, with increasing declines in reimbursements plus escalating costs of medications?

Today, all too often, senior colleagues with 30 years or more of retail chain experience are suddenly being shown the door, facing the grim reality of unemployment at age 60. What to do? Where to go? How to fend for themselves and their families? They face mortgage payments, car payments, children’s college expenses - the list goes on and on.

Questions to ask

The most important questions to pose at this time are:

What other services could an experienced community pharmacist render to the public for economic gain?

Where should a former retail pharmacist offer his/her services outside of pharmacy?

What other sphere(s) of human economic endeavor would suit the qualifications of a pharmacist?

How should he/she invest a payout or gratuity?

How could he/she offer services for pharmacy work overseas?

What are the options for beneficial employment in early retirement?

What are the employment opportunities for a 60-year-old pharmacist today?


Think outside the box

To the adventurous and enterprising among us, a number of fascinating opportunities exist beyond early retirement for a progressive, pharmacy-oriented occupation. An incurable optimist might consider the following:

With other colleagues, incorporate a business venture in human resources, specializing in the recruitment, training, and development of pharmaceutical manpower, including an ACPE-accredited CE program for young pharmacists and such services as CPR and diabetes care certification.

Create a trade venture in pharmaceutical products, advertising and promoting USA-made drugs, pharmaceutical raw materials, and pharmacy equipment to possible overseas clients and customers.

Invest in a pharmacy consultancy business, targeting foreign governments for the training and development of their local pharmaceutical manpower, including immunization certification overseas.

Cooperate with a group of interested colleagues in the business of pharmacognosy, the study and identification of medicinal plants, including the sale, packaging, and farming of herbal supplements.

Embrace the challenge of serving the public in such western states as Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, and New Mexico, where pharmacists are needed, but to which few are willing to relocate.

Remember the origin of the Pharmacists Mutual companies? Float a “1,000 pharmacists’ corporation” challenge, inviting “1,000 concerned pharmacists” in the United States to start their own PBM or auto-insurance company targeting pharmacists.

Establish a “Pharmacists’ Business School,” targeting only pharmacists globally for a unique training in pharmaceutical business management, drug manufacturing, internet pharmacy, pharmacy warehousing, and overseas business investments network.

Promote a global volunteer services initiative for pharmacists, attracting interested pharmacists who are willing to volunteer their annual vacations for a week of professional services abroad.

Create increasing numbers of independent pharmacy cooperatives for joint economic advancement in retail pharmacy business.

These are some suggestions that an optimist might offer. And, although some of them could cause a few pharmacists to cringe while considering their bank balances and credit-card statements, they clearly show that pharmacists need not restrict the practice of their professional skills to the four walls of one particular location.

There is much more to be seen in the world than meets the eye in one place of practice. 

Oluwole Williams practices pharmacy in the Philadelpha, Penn. area. Contact him at

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