I have opportunities to interview students applying for admission to pharmacy school, and when asked why they want to become a pharmacist, most include the desire to help others. Pharmacy is indeed a “helping” profession that offers job variety with a good income. Part-time work is readily available, and jobs are generally available anywhere in the country. Will that continue to be the case after health care reform?
On occasion I talk to a pharmacist who has been working for a while and doesn’t feel good about being a pharmacist. He expresses disappointment about choosing pharmacy as a career, wouldn’t do it again, and doesn’t want his children to be pharmacists. Because I personally have really enjoyed being a pharmacist, I wonder whether those disappointed in pharmacy would be disappointed in most jobs. Is the problem more in their attitude rather than in the pharmacy profession?
Fortunately for our profession, most pharmacists are glad they chose the profession and would do it again. That does not mean that we never feel overwhelmed by our workload, are frustrated by some customer, or are unsure about some recommendation we offered. When that occurs, I like to look back at why I went into pharmacy and how many people I have been able to help throughout my career. I admit that when I entered pharmacy school or even when I graduated and got my pharmacy license, I had no idea I would have the opportunities that pharmacy offered me. Nor did I think I would have practiced pharmacy in the places I did. Change has been a part of my career. By embracing change and taking some risks I feel as if I got a lot more out of pharmacy than I put into it.
I share this personal reflection on my own career in pharmacy because I feel as if our profession is on the threshold of great opportunity. But we have to embrace change and take some risks to take advantage of that opportunity. The days of count and pour, lick and stick pharmacy are going away. Pharmacists who delegate this role to technology or others so that they can help patients make the best use of their medications will be what society needs from their pharmacist. And if that is not why you wanted to become a pharmacist, then maybe you need to rethink why you are a pharmacist.
Medication misadventures, cost of drug therapy, and poor medication adherence are problems for too many patients. Pharmacists can be the profession most available to improve these situations. It will require us to take some risks in our practice model, but it will help people—and that is why most of us went into pharmacy.
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Mr. Eckel is professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.