Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Pharmacy School and Your Future

To those that have been accepted to pharmacy schools…congratulations!  This is a major accomplishment and you should be very proud of your accomplishment.  Pat yourselves on the back as this may be the beginning of a long and fruitful career.   It is a great moment to treasure after weeks or even months of anticipation for the letter from the pharmacy schools to arrive in your mailbox.  The heart beating, and the seconds becoming minutes as you may hesitate and ponder a bit before opening and revealing the contents of a letter that may decide   the direction in life you may take.  It is a watershed moment.

For those that are or were fortunate enough to receive an acceptance letter – again congratulations.  It is no small feat to get into a PharmD program.  During these times, people are acknowledging the interesting career and considerable compensation that may come with a job as a pharmacist.  The competition to get into the program is great, and the job market, especially with the current tough  economic climate, may also pose a challenge.  Nevertheless, one has to properly prepare for the next step in their lives if they choose to move forward with matriculating into the pharmacy program.  Pharmacy school is no lightweight task for most students.  It could require hours of lectures on medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacotherapy, pharmacy law, pharmacy practice, pharmacokinetics, etc.  It also requires many hours of practical work to be familiar and comfortable with the numerous laws that abound at the federal level and variations of pharmacy laws specific to each state, the many drugs that are dispensed, the specific peculiarities for each drug, compounding methods, dealing with constant national shortages, insurance issues (maybe more to come with new healthcare laws), etc.

With new healthcare laws in this country, more and more people are expected to seek medical attention for preventive measures or to treat their problems earlier.  This could equate to more treatment options being delivered to patients, with medications being one major type of treatment option.  More patients could arrive at the community pharmacy setting with varying insurance plans that have different reimbursements, copays, and deductibles.  This could be a big opportunity for pharmacists to handle the complexities in the prescription insurance world in addition to having more opportunities to counsel more patients with the pipeline of medications that are available for treatment.  For those that have limited insurance coverage such as higher deductibles, pharmacists could assist customers/patients with their knowledge of available manufacturer assistance plans, federal/state programs, or other prescription discounts through membership organizations if available.  Pharmacists in hospitals are able to advise hospital staff of the ongoing shortages in medications, and alternatives to use during the shortages.  In California, due to the diversity present in the population, patients could request translators at any time at the pharmacy about their prescription.

The life of a pharmacist can be busy.  The astute pharmacist will have to be knowledgeable with the many laws that exist and could change, the constant shortages, the new medications being approved from the pipeline, and many insurance plans and prescription assistance programs that are and will be present .  Yes, all of the above while continuing to perform the classic pharmacist responsibilities such as reviewing prescription orders, counseling patients, keeping accurate records and inventories, interacting with other physicians/healthcare professionals, keeping compliance to current laws, and ensuring safety to the public through prescription review, preparation, and proper dispensing.  The workload may be large, but the need is great in order to serve the community as the population is growing older and living longer, and new laws are formed in a changing demographic.

Pharmacist Skills

Many people ask what it takes to be a good pharmacist.  Pharmacists who love their profession, and are passionate about serving customers/patients whether it is within the community setting or a hospital, and have the drive to keep evolving their skill set and learn new things may have the “right stuff.”  Similar to many other jobs, if one dislikes/detests their job and dreads going to work every day, then the person might not be the most motivated to excel in their specialty, and less likely to be a good representative of their chosen occupation for other future career seekers.  Passion, enjoyment, and motivation are few of the key ingredients needed for a long  and successful career as a pharmacist regardless of the type of pharmacy setting.

Pharmacists also need to proficient in certain academic subjects that are part of their everyday usage at the workplace.  Subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physiology heavily influence the study of pharmacy and its applications.  Mathematics is highly emphasized in pharmacy school, and is essential for patient safety as pharmacists will need to be accurate with duties such as pharmaceutical recipe calculations, measuring medication dosages, mixing the correct amount of ingredients, and dispensing the correct quantity of medications.  Chemistry, biology, and physiology enables a pharmacist to understand the medication effects on the human body and vice versa.  The complexities that involve taking multiple medications and its interactions with each other and the human body are courses that are usually part of the pharmacy school curriculum.

Good pharmacists should be able to communicate with people well as pharmacists are usually the first point of contact or support for questions relating to medications for patients, doctors, and nurses.  Being able to educate the public and answer questions are an essential responsibility and opportunity for pharmacists to represent their field as the drug information specialists.  Pharmacists educate patients on the correct way to take the medications, side effects to expect, cost, and encouraging them to always take the medication as prescribed (compliance).  Pharmacists are also present to answer drug information questions for doctors and nurses regarding proper dosages, preparation instructions, drug availability, and alternative options if the drugs prescribed are not available.

Good attitude is recommended in the workplace.  The job of a pharmacist could get stressful with hoards of orders, issues with incorrectly written orders, insurance claim issues, telephone calls, talking to customers, etc.  Having the right composure, patience, and attitude will go far in this field.  No one likes approaching grumpy pharmacists and doing business with them, especially when there are other pharmacies around the corner to transfer prescriptions to.  Good customer service with a smile will be remembered by customers, however irascible some may be.

Pharmacists who are always on the “cutting edge” will always be a step ahead of their peers.  In order to stay ahead of the pack, pharmacists should join or register as members with their local or national pharmacy organizations where they will have opportunities to attend interesting continuing education seminars, network with other practicing pharmacists, and be eligible for other educational opportunities not available to the public.  Also, subscribing to pharmacist publications and periodicals will provide the pharmacist with consistently new educational material delivered to the home or workplace.

There are many solutions and steps to becoming a solid pharmacist.  Strong proficiencies in the basic sciences and mathematics will provide a sound foundation for the future pharmacist.  The passion to serve the public, and the love of the profession will enable most pharmacists to motivate themselves to improve their skills and knowledge each day for the betterment of serving the community.