How to Use PharmD Program’s Unique Directory

As some may already know, our website not only takes contributions from real-life pharmacists and their perspectives, opinions, advice about working as a pharmacist, it also includes a unique pharmacy school directory unlike those offered from other educational websites.  The directory lists available pharmacy school and PharmD programs, along with scores on how easy your walk or commute will be to commercial or landmark locations.  The higher the score, the more walkable it is to the closest stores, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.  This directory may serve as an important tool when deciding how well you will adjust to the school’s location based on its convenience to areas where you could hang out, shop, tour, or just have fun.

Let’s take a closer look at how to use this website more effectively.  First, click on the “Pharmacy Schools” link at the top of the webpage:



Next, search for a school that you may be interested in.  Here, we will look at a school located in a pretty cool city:  Chicago.




Next, click on the link to the school to arrive at the program’s page:









You will notice three separate scores for (1) Walking, (2) Public Transportation, and (3) Biking.  Again, the higher the scores, the easy it may be to walk , to find public transportation, and to bike to notable landmarks or merchants.  These scores may serve you well if you will not be having a car, or if you do not live near the school.  Evidently, the higher the scores, the less likely you will need to worry about getting around town, or finding your own transportation.  If you click on any of the scores, a new webpage will open up in your browser with a map of the school, and more details regarding the relative times using different transportation methods:









Clicking the map, will open up the map with a flagged list of area merchants such as coffee shops, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, parks, and many other places.  Needless to say, most may prefer to attend a dream school that offers nearby places of interest where a drive or a walk to buy groceries, or grab a cup of coffee would not expected to be very difficult.





When clicking on a specific category, the navigation window on the left will change to a list of businesses or landmarks within the category:





These scores on the website should obviously be used with some caution, and only for information purposes only.  You should not base your decision on these scores, and it would be recommended to apply to the school that you desire based on what the school can offer you, whether you can get in and afford it, and whether it would be a good match for you.   The scores offer information about ease of walkability, or how convenient it would be to walk to the nearest merchant.  However, it does not provide any indications on the favorability or satisfaction the location may bring to anyone.  Some areas with high walking or transportation scores could also resemble congested, urban areas with lots of pollution and noise, and higher cost of living.  On the flip-side, schools with lower walking and transit scores may offer an area that is peaceful, quiet, and less-congested.  Take for example the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy which currently has a relatively lower score.










However, the school is in Hawaii!  How would you not want to live there if you desire paradise, warm weather, water sports, and the beach?  To each their own, as some people prefer being around crowds, and others may enjoy living in a place that offers a serene and quiet environment.  Therefore, enjoy using the scores for researching information about the location of your schools…or for your own amusement.

Tips to avoid getting stuck in the retail pharmacy setting

Many pharmacists have asked how they could get out of retail pharmacy.  Well, first of all, not getting stuck there in the first place is the easiest way to avoid it.  For example, if you are confident that you do not see yourself in a retail pharmacy position in the long run, try to work in the clinical setting right out of pharmacy school.  Many pharmacists in a retail pharmacy setting may find themselves in a bind because they want to earn money as quickly as possible to provide for themselves and their families, or paying off debts after toiling in pharmacy school for years and losing money to pay for tuition and its compounding interest.  This may be fine in the short run to take care of financial issues, but the long term career aspirations and goals may be compromised, stunted, or delayed by years for doing so.  Therefore, for those of you not interested in a retail pharmacy career, it may be beneficial to work towards a non-retail (e.g. clinical) career early on as long as financial issues could be deferred for a few more years after graduation.  Just like anything else in life, preparing and planning early may allow one to avoid long term regrets.  Here are some tips to land a clinical gig after pharmacy school.

Aim for a pharmacy internship or technician position in a hospital before or during pharmacy school to gain exposure to the work and services provided by a hospital pharmacy.  Learning how to compound intravenous admixtures, total parenteral admixtures, answering frantic phone calls, working with nurses, filling medication carts, and delivering medications to dispensing cabinets may provide a good comprehensive background of what to expect in the clinical setting.

Networking with other hospital inclined pharmacy students, professors, and pharmacists is a great way to get connected to the hospital world.  Networking with them may provide helpful and interesting tips and assistance.  They may be the first to know about hospital job openings at their own hospital, and even refer you to the right hiring managers so that you may receive a proper introduction.  Networking, regardless or pharmacy settings, is probably one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for any type of career and job.  Be sure to participate in relevant organizations, clubs, and social activities to expose yourself to meeting new people who may be of assistance later on.  For those that have already been in retail pharmacy for some time, and are having a difficult time landing a hospital pharmacy position, networking is probably one of the best ways to transition over to the clinical setting.  Joining a local hospital pharmacy organization, and attending local pharmacy conferences will allow one to network with many other local professionals, some who may work in the hospital setting, and provide you with tips and information about job openings.

Applying for a hospital residency or fellowship is another great way to get acclimated to the hospital environment.  After the conclusion of the residency and fellowship, a position may even be offered to you by your supervisor if there are openings upon successful completion of the residency or fellowship.  Having completed a residency is one of the best ways to be considered for a hospital position after graduation.  It may set you apart and above those that lack of a residency, or put you on par with those that have hospital experience.

Obtaining a board certification, such as board certified pharmacotherapy specialist (BCPS) may also beef up one’s resume to compete for the limited openings for hospital pharmacists.  This is not the easiest or cheapest route, but many hospitals appreciate the knowledge and skill provided by the BCPS pharmacist.  There are books and courses offered at pharmacy conferences dedicated to preparing pharmacists for this test.



Will you enjoy a career in pharmacy?

Do you really want to do this?  Do you really want to be a pharmacist?  If you finish a full PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) Professional Degree program – you’re looking at around four years of your entire life.  Even less if you attend an accelerated program, but it is a big investment in time and money regardless.  It would be all for nothing if you decide you dislike being a pharmacist after working for only a short period of time.  If you decide to change careers midway through pharmacy school, or shortly after you graduate, you would have to spend additional time and money searching for a new career that you may or may not enjoy compared to a career in pharmacy.  This is why it is very important to do your research in this industry by doing some reading into this field, talking to current pharmacists and pharmacy students, talking to your trusted family members, advisors, and friends, or even your school’s career counselor, and other available and legitimate resources on the Internet.  Working as in intern in the pharmacy department within a hospital or a retail setting before applying to pharmacy school is a great way to receive some real exposure to the life, and get some hands-on experience.  This is a good method of testing whether the pharmacy world is a good fit for you…and whether you’ll be able to endure the next 30-40 years of it…assuming you work until retirement.  Therefore, a little investment in your time to do some preliminary research will go a long way for the rest of your life.  You’ll spend generally eight hours of your day (a third of a full day) if employed full-time, and so it may be beneficial to find out if this career path will bring happiness or dread.

The following may be some indicators that you’ll be content with the pharmacy field:

  • Enjoy working with people of all personalities
  • Enjoy providing customer service to everyone
  • Enjoy learning new things
  • Independent
  • Thick-skinned
  • Disciplined
  • Patient
  • Intelligent, and the passion to seek knowledge and find answers quickly
  • Enjoy science
  • Enjoy working in a busy environment
  • Teaching and training

If you possess the opposite traits from those listed above, you may want to rethink this career, or at least do some more research and work in a pharmacy before you decide to invest more time and money into it.  Keep in mind that although the majority of pharmacists work in a retail drugstore or a hospital setting, there are other career paths such as academia, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, research, and consulting.  Pharmacists are known to  be valued for their knowledge on medications, insurance, general science, and some various aspects of healthcare, which is why their skills and knowledge may be utilized in various industry sectors.  To learn about atypical careers outside of the hospital or retail pharmacy setting, it may be a good idea to inquire from your pharmacy schools before you apply on the available elective courses and experiential programs they offer.  You could also inquire about the teachers and professors about their backgrounds to see if your career interests have any relation to their employment history.  They may be able to mentor or advise you on certain career paths based on their own experiences.  Therefore, not only is it a good idea to do some research into the work of a pharmacist, it is an equally sound idea to research the schools you are interested in applying to, and whether they offer special elective courses and experiential programs that will assist you in your pursuit of the your ideal job.



Complaints in Hospital Pharmacy

Have you ever worked in a hospital pharmacy?  It is much different from working in a retail setting, and it is highly recommended to volunteer or spend some time as a technician before you decide to devote your entire career in this setting.  Hospital pharmacies are usually referred to as inpatient pharmacy.  Although hospitals may have an outpatient pharmacy, which is similar to a retail setting, most people generally think of inpatient pharmacies when thinking about a hospital pharmacy setting.  The inpatient pharmacy serves medications generally for patients who have a room and bed.  Therefore, their policies, protocols, and systems are designed to serve in this capacity depending on the type of medical services offered at the hospital, and the size (e.g. number of rooms and patients) that can be admitted to a hospital.  Many hospital pharmacies require new hires to have experience in a residency if they’ve had no prior hospital experience as a pharmacist.  This may be due to the expanding role of a pharmacist to include clinical duties in areas of anticoagulation, infectious diseases, emergency room support, pediatrics, oncology, and many others.  These “clinical” services being offered by clinical pharmacists are becoming appreciated by other healthcare professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses) and patients as they offer educational services about novel medications to staff, provide optimal medication recommendations in regards to effectiveness and safety for complex treatments as medicines become more and more complicated over time, and even ensure the cost-effectiveness of such treatment in some cases.

The above all sounds great on paper, but unless you have worked in a hospital pharmacy operation, you may not know what you’re getting yourself into.  There are nuances to understand in hospital pharmacy that you may not have to deal with as often or at all in retail pharmacy.  Here, we compile some of the many complaints that could arise in a hospital pharmacy operation in a full-service, or general hospital.

  1.  The schedule.  Full-service general hospitals don’t usually close…they can be open 24 hours a day.  Therefore, pharmacies are usually staffed around-the-clock which means pharmacists will need to work around-the-clock also in shifts.  Sometimes these shifts are not desirable if you’re stuck with the midnight to morning shift.  Sometimes they are not the most preferred if stuck working on weekends or on holidays when you would rather be with your family or have a social life.
  2. Call-outs.  Similar to above, when other members of the pharmacy call out sick, or go on vacation, maternity leave,  you may have to cover them or be asked to take their shift. This happens often as people will always get sick, and workers will always take vacation.
  3. Lack of communication.  When a prior shift (e.g. a morning pharmacist) is working on something important and complex, but does not communicate what they worked on to the next shift pharmacist (e.g. evening pharmacist) for a job they did not finish before they leave the pharmacy to go home.  You can imagine the results when a doctor or nurse calls about the order being worked on by the morning pharmacist, but the evening shift has no clue what they are talking about.
  4. Staff shortages.  Without proper staffing, a hospital pharmacist will be overwhelmed and perform the job of 2-3 pharmacists and technicians.  This is risky because it could lead to errors and fatigue.
  5. Nurses. Nurses want the medication quickly, and may not always provide enough time for the pharmacist to process and send the medication after the order is sent to the pharmacy.  They may not understand that only a few pharmacists manage and review the medications for proper dosing and safety for the entire hospital.  Also, some medications require further processing, such as mixing in the correct diluent, etc.
  6. Missing medications.  Sometimes, even after medications are sent, nurses cannot find the delivered medications…thus requiring pharmacists to scramble and look for the medications in the pharmacy to see if they were sent up.  This wastes a lot of time, and results in duplicative work.  Many times, those missing medications are later found by the nurses themselves because they may not have looked in the correct locations, or when another nurse takes the delivered medication without telling the other nurses who are looking for the medication (lack of communication).

The above are only some of the scenarios of things that may lead to complaints by hospital pharmacists.  Obviously, it is highly recommended to have some exposure in this setting before embarking on this career path.

How To Get The Most Out Of Pharmacy School

If you could do it all over again…what would you do?

When asked this question, there is one recommendation many seasoned pharmacists agree on: to participate in more extracurricular activities such as clubs and organizations. Networking, socializing, making friends is important, and joining clubs, organizations, and participating in activities may be the easiest and preferred way to accomplish this.  This will be very important for the rest of your life, and perhaps in your career. In the real world, it is much more difficult to make the time to go out and socialize and make new friends, build new relationships after you are immersed in the cycle of life which includes getting married, finding a job, learning the new job, starting a family, and raising your children, etc. Having the time to hang out with your friends, or go out and make new ones will be difficult as you start getting older, and worrying about how to find a babysitter, what to cook, or who will pick up the kids from daycare. By the time your daily routine is over after managing your children, shopping for groceries, cooking and cleaning, you may be too tired to do anything else but to lay on your couch, and watch your television shows…and falling asleep. Your few years in pharmacy may seem overwhelming in the beginning, but it will fly by really quickly, and compared to all of the unexpected stresses you’ll encounter after pharmacy school, it will be a piece of cake. You may never see most of your classmates again, and despite the long hours studying for those tough exams, you’ll probably never have it as easy life compared to when you’re still in school. Therefore, aside from focusing solely on your studies, try to make an effort to smile and make new friends by participating in activities, clubs, organizations, and attending other social events. There will be many opportunities in pharmacy school, and taking advantage of it will be to your benefit, especially since you’re paying a lot of tuition for it.

There are many organizations and activities available for pharmacy students such joining an organization focused on the student pharmacist, a state pharmacist, national hospital pharmacist, health professional, professional pharmacy fraternity/sorority, religion-based pharmacy, community service associations or organizations, pharmacy school government, special pharmacy school committees, and so on. Pharmacy schools may offer various social events such as dance nights, charity auctions, volunteering opportunities, social events with other health professional schools (medical, nursing, dental), events to a baseball game, or even a college sporting event. In fact, this is something you could inquire about during your visit to the pharmacy school(s) from senior pharmacy students, to know what programs or organizations are offered at the school, and which clubs they recommend joining. Networking through these events and organizations is also another great way to get job referrals, and meet new employers, and learn about the trade. Remember, you’ll never be this young again to enjoy the student life, so it is a good idea to make the most out of your short time in school. People skills and the understanding of how to socialize and network will probably be one of the most important assets you possess as you move up the career ladder. Who knows…you may even find your future wife or husband this way, and it is probably a lot easier to meet a potential new spouse in school compared to dating websites and apps, or in life beyond school where your time outside of work is limited. Therefore, make the most of your pharmacy school experience. Study hard…but make sure you also build new relationships.