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What pharmacist do you really want to be?

pharmacist careers Aug 09, 2021

My question is: how many career paths have you considered before? 

If you’ve been a pharmacist for a few years, you have likely come to a crossroads at some point. 

You might be asking yourself:

  • What sort of pharmacist am I?
  • Should I study something else?
  • Should I do a post-grad? Which one? How much will that cost?

Maybe I should try hospital/ HMRs/ Aged care/ GP pharmacist /naturopathy /nutrition /teaching?

The list is endless, right?

Or should I leave pharmacy altogether and do medicine/ dentistry/ physio/ *insert-any-other-allied-health-profession-here* ?

Remember those high school guidance counsellors? They would sit with you and help you decide what you wanted to be when you grow up. Where are those guys now? Perhaps we need them more now, than our 17-year-old selves did!  

A Brief and Upsetting History of Pharmacy Work

Years ago there was not really much of a choice in the pharmacy world. Pharmacists did their apprenticeships and spent some years learning the ropes. They often bought into a pharmacy or took over from the retiring pharmacist. 

Then, they just sat back and made lots of money right? Ah, so simple! 

Have you heard this version of pharmacy history before? Have you ever thought: I came into this 30 years too late!?

Realising this, I’ll admit, kind of got to me. Aren’t things supposed to improve with time?

The Dark Side of Olden Pharmacy Days

I’m sure many older pharmacists would disagree with the above recounting. I’m sure it wasn’t simple, or easy. In fact, my boss told me a story recently. 

He said he worked so many hours, that some nights it was easier to just sleep on the floor in the pharmacy rather than go home! No, thank you. I’m not sleeping on the pharmacy floor! As your unofficial mentor in the pharmacy world, I would also advise you against this.

One day he was so tired while working alone that he put his head on the counter to rest and fell asleep! A customer came in. Seeing him asleep she yelled out and shook him a few times, but she couldn’t rouse him. She rushed into the shop next door and announced the pharmacist is dead! Of course he wasn't. In fact, he woke up, served the customer, and carried on with his day like a total boss. 

I love that story and it sums up my point exactly.

It isn’t those times anymore, and they probably weren’t as golden as we imagine.  Things are different now. In some ways, they are better, and they are worse in others.

Owning Your Pharma Reality

It’s hard not to feel discouraged at times. It can feel as though Pharmacy in Australia belongs to all the big guys (yeah, you know who they are). 

But let me tell you–it belongs to you too!! Even more so! Because you're at the frontline, doing the work and helping people. You deserve to feel proud of the work that you do.

I know what it’s like to have a voice that feels too small, to think you don’t know enough, or that everyone else is so far in front of you. I remember feeling afraid to ask questions, and doing things I didn’t agree with simply because I didn’t want to shake the boat. It is a big field and there are many different opinions within it.

We really need to be raising each other up, not pretending that we have it all together, that we woke up one day as this fabulous clinical pharmacist. No. There were ups and downs, embarrassing and uncomfortable moments, times we didn’t have the answers, and plenty of mistakes made. I still remember my first dispensing error! (and it wasn’t my last). 

There will be a time when your confidence shines I promise! And when you are there, I hope you show kindness, and share knowledge with all the pharmacists that come after you.

No one ever got there all on their own!