Retired pharmacist offers valuable suggestions
Bert Drachtman, BS, RPhI had occasion to go into a chain pharmacy the other day, to fill a prescription for a 15-gram tube of a very old generic cream. I ended up leaving without it when I discovered that the price was more than $150 dollars, but before I found that out, I took the opportunity to speak with the young intern who took care of me at the counter. She was in her fifth year and was lucky enough to have no educational debt. Although she was not very enthusiastic at the possibility of working in a retail setting, she still hoped that the chain would hire her once she received her license.
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My advice to her was to expand her horizons beyond the pharmacy counter, since by all indications, in coming years there will be many fewer opportunities in retail than there have been in the recent past. She should try to find a niche, I suggested, and she could start by trying to get a summer job with a drug company.
1. Get your foot in the door
The opportunities in the industry are endless. As a professional sales representative for a major company, I thoroughly enjoyed getting up in the morning and going to work. I called on physicians and actually used the knowledge that I had acquired both in school and out in the field.
With about 37% of all prescriptions now being specialty drugs such as biotechnology products, this is an area I encourage young pharmacists to consider; this industry is still in the developmental stages and by all signs looks really exciting. These companies need all kinds of employees, from sales representatives to professionals in the public relations and scientific areas, as well as everything in between.
In this area, once you are in and show your capabilities, doors will open. There is no limit to how far you can go.
2. Practice your way
If you do choose retail, then you must make every effort to practice your brand of pharmacy in spite of the pressures brought to bear by today’s marketplace.
Automation, which is already present in some chains, means fewer opportunities for pharmacists. New pharmacists must make every effort to bring to the table both what employers expect and what earlier generations of pharmacists gave to patients as a matter of course - something that machines can’t deliver.
Maybe in the past pharmacists called their patients “customers” rather than “patients.” They were treated like patients nonetheless, every time they came into the pharmacy. They came for advice on how to deal with their health issues and where to go to get the help they needed, and we delivered.
You’ve heard it before: Pharmacists have been the first line of medical care for generations of people who have come to this country, many of them unable to speak the language and many of them unable to cope with what it would cost to see a physician. They turned to pharmacists - whom they often called “Doc” - to help them, and we delivered.
3: Remember your roots
Quite frankly, if you do not seriously make an attempt to offer the same level of concerned service, you would be violating the oath you take when you become licensed.
Furthermore, by upholding the standards in which you were trained, you can share the knowledge you have worked so hard to attain.
To my way of thinking, the clinical aspects of pharmacy that you learned as you went through your training are more important than memorizing the formulas of some drugs you use while you’re working at the bench. We can never forget that we are caring for people.
I wish all new pharmacists as many happy years in this profession as I have enjoyed. Yes, our profession is facing big challenges. But you can find opportunities to practice in the way that’s right for you. Best of luck!
Bert Drachtmanis a retired pharmacist living inGreat Neck, New York. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.