No one said working in pharmacy is easy, but the things pharmacists do every day really are amazing.
I love the profession I have chosen. No, pharmacy isn’t perfect. Every job has its own version of angry customers, inadequate technology, lousy reimbursements and unreasonable demands. Sure, we have some very big challenges before us as a profession. I know all that.
But I agree with what Zig Ziglar said: “Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining - it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn't solve any problems.” The fact is, in my opinion at least, being a pharmacist is great. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Answering Questions and Solving Medication Problems
Steve came into the pharmacy one night and told me his inhaler hasn’t been working very well. He was due for a refill, so we filled it and then, along with my intern, we asked him to show us how he used it. He opened the box, turned it upside down, and proceeded to take a puff. I smiled. If only every problem were this easy to fix. I showed him the correct way to hold it, shake it and prime it. He tried. Low and behold-it worked much better. Problem solved. An easy base hit.
Like the time I helped a patient with mouth sores by showing her how to mix some liquid diphenhydramine and Maalox to make a gargle solution. She sang my praises for weeks after that.
2. Saving Patients Money
Many of our patients are on fixed incomes and they struggle to be able to afford the treatments prescribed. Pharmacists can help. For example, we work closely with a local cancer center. I remember when they sent me a prescription for Jean. She needed to start a new treatment for breast cancer, but it was too expensive for her to afford. After making several calls to both the manufacturer and provider, we were able to secure her a sample to get started and then helped her apply for financial aid to cover the rest. She was approved. We made a real difference in her life and she was so thankful for the effort we put in to make this happen.
3. Work Variety
Being a pharmacist today is very different than it was 30 years ago. Back then, pretty much everyone worked either in a community pharmacy or a hospital. That was it. But those days are gone.
Today, pharmacists can be found working in virtually every healthcare setting you can imagine. I personally worked from home for 7 years doing formulary analysis for a great company called Fingertip Formulary. I have a pharmacist friend who works setting up conferences for some of the top pharma company executives and scientists in the industry. Another friend works in the hospital emergency department. Another is a hospital COO. Yet one more is in the talent acquisition business. The variety of work opportunities are almost endless.
I love to teach. I love to bring students into the pharmacy and give them a job while they complete their training in pharmacy school, or be a preceptor for six weeks while they do a rotation at my location. I’m humbled by their appreciation to learn the profession from me and my staff.
A month ago, one of my students graduated and he sent me a card. I share it, not to boast, but to encourage others to do the same. He said: “You have been one of the most inspirational people I have had in my academic and professional life while attending pharmacy school. Thank you for assisting me with finding my career path.” His appreciation is probably more generous than I deserved, but nonetheless, it’s a real joy to provide teaching and training for the next generation.
5. The Business
Yes, I actually think the business side of pharmacy is fascinating and is one of the reasons I love this profession. I love the challenge of running a profitable business when narrowing margins are constantly threatening our survival. Smart purchasing and inventory management are critical.
I’ve had the privilege of helping several pharmacies look carefully at their monthly financial reports-in one case finding over a million dollars of revenue that was unaccounted for. It was simply an accounting mistake, but it had a huge impact on the pharmacy department’s profitability. With DIR fees, claw-backs, negative reimbursements, audits, and other threats to revenue, the challenge is only getting more complex. But this makes it all the more interesting.
6. Catching the Bad Guys
Part of me wishes I had gone into law enforcement. I’m very bothered by the criminal activity going on with opiates in our culture. Legitimate patients are suffering because a minority is involved in drug diversion and promoting addiction, sometimes selling these drugs to kids in the community.
One time, I was handed a prescription which I knew to be bogus. I put a call in to the local authorities, but the patient fled the scene. Nevertheless, I was visited in a few days by an FBI agent who asked me to identify the patient from a lineup. I did. Turns out she was a nurse who had stolen a doctor’s pad and was writing bogus prescriptions all over the Northeast. I don’t know for sure if they caught her, but I feel like I helped a bit.
7. Saving a Life
Early in my pharmacy career, a patient had a grand mal seizure in my pharmacy. I knew enough to get him on his side, clear away any objects and to call 911. The EMT said we handled it perfectly.
Not long ago, I had a patient enter the pharmacy, clearly confused. We knew her and this wasn’t normal. I called security and had them escort her to the ED. The ED attending doctor later called and said we probably saved her life. She was having a mini stroke. These aren’t daily occurrences, but they do make you feel really good.
Being a pharmacist has its ups and downs. Doesn’t every profession? But if there is nothing great in what you do, why do it? Being a pharmacist is a great responsibility, a great opportunity, a great privilege, and great job.