The unordered refill: 10 more unsolicited tips for new pharm-school grads


Kelly Howard and Drug Topics readers share 10 more tips on how best to conduct - and survive - the practice of pharmacy.

Back in July, Drug Topics published “10 pieces of unsolicited advice for new pharmacy graduates” [DT Blog, July 24;], in which I asked my more seasoned pharmacist brethren for ideas to share. The response, as they say, was overwhelming. New grads and veteran pharmacists alike wrote in with their own insightful thoughts and suggestions, and I had some favorites of my own that just didn't fit into the first article. So here are another 10 pieces of unsolicited advice for new pharmacy graduates.

1. Pay it forward. Precept. Volunteer. Be compassionate. Never forget that a slightly altered set of circumstances or coincidences could have landed you in an entirely different career, socioeconomic class, etc.

2. Know that you cannot put a price on job satisfaction. As a floating nuclear pharmacist three years out of school, I earned a paycheck that exceeded the national average for pharmacists. I also worked 90 hours a week, lived out of a suitcase, and oh, yeah - handled radioactivity for a living. I quickly learned that my employers would not have paid me that much if they didn’t have to. With my next job I took a hefty pay cut, but my quality of life increased dramatically and I certainly didn’t miss the stress or the hours.

3. Never stop learning. Our education shouldn’t slow down when we graduate; it should merely shift and laser-focus on our particular subspecialty or area of interest.

4. Join a pharmacy organization, if only for the networking opportunities and free CE. Know, though, that your membership fees also go a long way toward funding scholarships, advocating pro-pharmacy legislation, and supporting the future of our profession.


5. Take care of your body. Several veteran community pharmacists spoke from vast experience when they wrote me with this bit of advice. The word “ergonomics” may not mean anything to you now, but 10 years from now, when you’ve single-handedly put your chiropractor’s children through college, you will understand. Buy yourself an electric stapler, a Bluetooth headset, and sensible footwear. Wear compression stockings and take a joint supplement. Every. Single. Day. One very wise pharmacist suggested that every pharmacist obtain disability insurance and keep it throughout the career years, because you never know when all of that standing and repetitive movement will get the best of you.

6. Take care of your brain. I often joke that the reason I won’t ride my bicycle without a helmet is because, since I still have student loans, my brain isn’t technically paid off. Even when I no longer owe money on my gray matter, I won’t be taking unnecessary risks with it, and neither should you. For the same reasons that NFL players shouldn’t be playing pickup basketball in the off season, pharmacists shouldn’t indulge their inner adrenaline junkie, have bilateral eye surgeries, or take up mixed martial arts fighting as a hobby. 

7. The buck stops with you. Don’t dispense guesswork, and don’t assume that your boss will have your back.

8. Look like you care, about your patients and your job. If you dress as though you take yourself seriously, your patients and colleagues will do the same.

9. Follow through. Return every phone call, tie up every loose end, and never leave a patient or physician hanging.

10. Maintain friendships that you developed with your classmates in pharmacy school. You were all in the trenches together for four years, and it’s likely you’ll need the emotional or professional support of a comrade at some point in your career. 

Kelly Howardis a freelance pharmacist in Southeastern North Carolina. She would love to read any unsolicited advice you have given or received. Contact her atkelly@gottsman.orgor

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