A Clean Slate

Fred M. Eckel, MS, RPh
Published Online: Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Graduating from pharmacy school and starting a new job provides the opportunity to begin life with a “clean slate.” In some ways, graduation can be thought of as the “end of the beginning.” For many pharmacy school graduates, pharmacy is actually a second career. I have interviewed many pharmacy school applicants who left another career to enter pharmacy thinking it provides more opportunities. Now that decision has come to a conclusion as graduation approaches.

For some of you there were times that this choice was questioned as friends were free to do what they wanted—and you were struggling with hard academic studies. But now there is a light at the end of the tunnel as graduation approaches. Participating in Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences has helped you solidify in your mind that you chose the right career. Some of you may still be unsure specifically about what area of pharmacy you want to pursue. Making the decision to pursue a residency may help you focus your interests and make career choices easier.

Pharmacy as a profession—just like the country’s health care system—is in a transition. What an exciting time to begin your career! Your training has prepared you for this new role to provide medication therapy and chronic disease management services. The hard work you put into your studies now enables you to provide these critical services. Your experiential education has helped you realize that you will be a competent pharmacist. As you continue to provide patient services, you are becoming a confident practitioner too.

That combination of competence and confidence is a key to your success in pharmacy. It is why I see graduation as only the end of the beginning. Maintaining your competence means you will be engaged in lifelong learning, but now you control that learning. No longer will a professor be directing your learning. Now you need to determine what you need to learn. To do that you will need to assess your strengths and weaknesses so that you can select the learning experiences that will help you grow professionally. It means that you are now in complete control of your career. This transition from a dependent learner to an independent learner is also why I suggest that graduation is only the end of the beginning of your pharmacy education. Enjoy the freedom and keep on growing!

What is true also is that upon graduation you start with a clean slate. No employer ever asked to see my academic transcript. They only wanted to see my pharmacy license. My career opportunities were determined by what I did as an employee. Use your academic training, your previous life experiences, and your enthusiasm for pharmacy to begin building your career, not just start a job. As you grow personally and professionally, new opportunities will emerge.

May you find in pharmacy what you want out of the profession. As you help patients make the best use of their medicines, may you find personal fulfillment and may your slate become full of successful outcomes. Yes, you start with a clean slate, but it soon becomes full with your work as a pharmacist. So, choose your first pharmacy job with care. Welcome to our profession!


Mr. Eckel is a professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He serves as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.



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