Empty Nails Are the Cure for What Ailed Them

Drug Topics Journal, Drug Topics April 2022, Volume 166, Issue 04

Our columnist shares true stories of pharmacists who have left the practice for their own greener pastures.

I frequently remind my fellow pharmacists that their license hangs by a nail on the wall. It is not bolted there; if you are not happy, find yourself a new nail.

Given the current climate of community and hospital practice, I know several pharmacists who will not be looking for a new nail but who instead have given up entirely on this profession. The common thread among these colleagues is that they practice community pharmacy, but I am quite confident the same feelings hold true for my brothers and sisters in hospital pharmacy practice. (I would love to hear their stories as well.)

Each of these pharmacists’ names have been changed.

Bob: Bob wanted to run heavy equipment, like his father. His father insisted that he go to pharmacy school, which he did. Bob graduated at the
top of his class and never worked more than a couple of hours of relief. He loved the bulldozer and the backhoe more than the computer and the counting tray. Because pharmacy was never his passion, we cannot count him among the disgruntled.

Nate: Nate was one of my student pharmacists who had a passion for hospital pharmacy. He practiced in the hospital setting for 7 years. Of all the pharmacists who left the profession, he was truly called to a higher duty: Nate enrolled in the seminary and will be ordained as a priest in the next few years. Sometimes salary, staffing, and satisfaction do not really matter when one hears a higher calling. When we attended morning Mass together, I knew there was something special about him.

Diana: Diana practiced pharmacy for at least 30 years at a grocery store chain. She has been less than pleased for some time with her staffing, management, and environment. She left the profession to take up her passion of baking. She opened a bakery and is extremely satisfied now.

Donna: Donna had an excellent position as a clinical pharmacist. She shared her amazing skills with physicians and nurses, but mostly with patients. Donna and her husband moved away to be closer to family. Although there are numerous opportunities available to her, she would do “anything” to not work in commu- nity pharmacy practice; she is happy being a grandma, and I doubt she will reenter community practice.

Jerry: I met Jerry when he worked as a representative for a drug company. He knew his products well and was an asset to his company. Jerry left that company and took a job practicing community pharmacy for 20 years. Although he is a few years younger than me, the demands from his grocery store chain have made him leave the profession to pursue his true passions. He is an avid fisherman and hunter and will change his income stream from pharmacist to taxidermist and maple sugar manufacturer.

Abe: Of all my pharmacist friends and acquaintances, this loss troubles me the most. Abe comes from a family of pharmacists: his mother, father, and cousins are all pharmacists. He has been out of school only 8 years. During the 8 years he practiced, Abe took a newly opened grocery store pharmacy to the top in prescription volume and sales. The metrics, demands of management, and lack of staffing have made him give up on the profession and work for his mother-in-law’s health care business. He has never been happier and gets to spend time with his growing family.

Enrollments in pharmacy schools are down and for many schools, wait- ing lists no longer exist. Thanks to the glut of pharmacists produced by academia and the miserable working conditions that the 4 major chains— “Corner,”“Three Letter,”“Spark,” and “Lefty”—have created, many excellent, seasoned pharmacists have left the profession to be priests, bakers, taxider- mists, or maple sugar makers... anything but chain pharmacists.

Feel free to send your management my way. I want to keep those nails covered with satisfied licensed pharmacists.

Peter A. Kreckel, RPh, practices community pharmacy in Lemont Furnace, Pennsylvania.