The Future Is Yours

Author: Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS
Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief

It is time to congratulate and welcome our profession's newest members. Over the next few months, thousands of recent pharmacy graduates will enter the workforce and begin putting their newly acquired skills to work helping patients.

We need new pharmacists more than ever. The Pharmacy Manpower Project estimates that the current shortage of pharmacists will increase to more than 150,000 by 2020.

This projected overall growth in demand conceals a major shift in pharmacists' roles. Automation and other trends are expected to reduce the time spent filling prescriptions, but this decline will be outweighed by surging demand for patient care services.

The good news is that academia has embraced this vision of the future. More pharmacy schools have been established. The schools also have adapted their curricula to support the profession's changing role by focusing on skills such as medication therapy management.

The intersection of these trends makes this an exciting time to become a pharmacist. Pharmacy is on the verge of change, and graduates have been trained to step into new roles. Perhaps this also will help ensure that our profession - rather than other sectors of the health care industry - receives the most benefit from these new opportunities.

Everyone wants to offer advice to new graduates, and I am no exception. I would like to share 3 insights that have remained true over the years since I entered the profession.

First, it is important to stay focused on your everyday practice. By helping people use their medicines wisely, you can make a valuable contribution in the life of every patient. Keeping a positive attitude will make you a better pharmacist and make pharmacy a better profession.

Second, remember that pharmacy is a small world, so it is important never to burn bridges. It is amazing how often I come across someone whom I first met earlier in my career, often in very different circumstances. If you are kind to people when you first meet them, they will remember and be more helpful to you later.

Finally, look for a way to give back to pharmacy. Many people have helped build and shape the profession. You can do so too, and your contribution will make pharmacy better for all. Early in my own career, I became involved with pharmacy organizations, and I have found this an effective way to give back. I have also found that, as in other areas of life, when you give you receive far more in return.