Is being a pharmacist something you have always wanted to be? Do you know what they actually do? Are you willing to take years of pharmaceutical and chemistry related courses to achieve your goal? These are some questions you may want to ask yourself and find the answers to. You do not want to jump head first into the world of pharmacy without knowing what is ahead and waiting for you. Doing your homework now will save you plenty of time, frustration, and money later on if you decide this path is not for you. Some questions you need to ask yourself and ponder upon are listed below.
I only have to count pills and take home a nice paycheck, right?
No, counting pills isn’t all that a retail, community, outpatient pharmacist does. In fact, many pharmacies employ technicians to do the counting and order entry while the pharmacists review the prepared medications and perform the final check. Unless the pharmacy does not have specially trained staff, pharmacists may be involved in the order entry of prescriptions, resolving insurance claims with insurance companies, record keeping management, controlled substance and non-controlled substance inventory management, account management, compounding medications, prescription record management, training and managing staff, etc. Pharmacists also provide patient counseling on medications by informing customers of side effects, drug interactions, proper dosage and administration, monitoring, and what to do if there was a missed dose or an overdosage. Counseling sessions, medication therapy management (MTM), vaccine administrations (eg flu vaccine), and community events are also important community programs the pharmacist may be involved in. Pharmacists in the community setting are on the front lines of patient support as they are readily accessible and will need to keep up with the latest information about new drugs or new drug updates. Needless to say, pharmacists could receive a lot of blame and criticism from others for areas that are not under their control such as patient insurance coverage denials, slow service, medication refill problems, etc. Pharmacists thus will need to be able to communicate well with the public and remain calm while under duress from demanding customers and a line that doesn’t seem to get shorter. If you don’t like dealing with disgruntled customers and receiving the brunt of blame in which you had no part in, you may want to rethink this career. Having patience as a pharmacist is an essentail key to having a long successful career as a pharmacist.
Pharmacy school is not like medical school…so it should be a breeze?
While it is well known that medical schools could be more rigorous than many other graduate professions, comparing pharmacy schools to medical schools or dental schools is like comparing apples and oranges. They are similar yes, but in the fact that they deal with medications and are a health specialty, but they are very diverse curriculums. Pharmacy schools are for those who enjoy pharmaceuticals, chemistry, and pharmacology. Nearly four years is devoted to all things pharmaceutical such as medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, pharmocokinetics, pharmacodynamics, pharmacology, biostatistics, pharmacy calculations, pharmacotherapy, etc. Therefore, if chemistry isn’t for you, then this may not be the best career choice. Medical school trains students to properly diagnose and treat patients, and so a thorough study of the human body, diseases and medical conditions, and treatment options are topics heavily emphasized. Medical doctors have to endure years or residency and even fellowship for specialized fields of medicine, whereas residency and fellowships are only optional for pharmacy students.
Working in a pharmacy, whether in the community or hospital setting, is the best way to gauge whether you want to be a pharmacist or not.