Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.
Perhaps it began in high school, especially for the newest generation of pharmacists. Maybe, like me, someone suggested that the health care field “was always hiring.” Maybe someone suggested that, because you are good at science and math, you should look into health care.
Perhaps you are like me in that you didn’t want to touch blood, butts, or guts, so you knew that being a doctor or a nurse was not really an option.
Maybe the average pharmacist salary for got your attention.
So, you scrambled to finish your high school classes with good grades to increase your chances at scholarships.
Then you suffered through pre-pharmacy requirements to guarantee that you would get into a pharmacy school. Once you got there, you studied hard to make sure that you would graduate and then land a good job.
No one told you that your starting salary and your maximum earning potential might be one and the same.
No one mentioned that if you continued working in that same job for another 40 years, you would barely increase your salary over the course of your lifetime.
Pharmacy offers very little room for growth.
Unless you are willing to move into management, which has its own set of challenges, there is nowhere to go.
By the time you realize you do not love your job anymore, you feel stuck.
You may convince yourself that no one else is willing to hire you.
You may decide that the job market is awful and no opportunities exist, so you will not try for anything.
The worst part is that, unless you are financially savvy, you may, like many in the millennial generation, live up to your expenses. You may be living in such a way that every dollar that comes in from your salary is earmarked for something, and it immediately gets spent.
You are not saving 5% or investing in yourself, so you are stuck in a cage.
You can’t leave your job, because every dollar you make is paying for your cars, your home, and other expenses. In some cases, the situation may be even worse, and you may have more money going out than you have coming in. You are in a hole that is constantly getting deeper.
You hate your job, and some days, you feel like you hate yourself.
Time goes by, and your feelings about work stay the same.
Now you have become callous toward your patients, but you never wanted that to happen. In fact, you became a pharmacist partly because you enjoy helping people.
So, what happened?
Has management taken away your ability to do your job well?
Are you constricted by the limitations of what you can and cannot do at your job?
Is it the work environment, or is it the actual work?
Whatever it is, you cannot quite put your finger on it.
You are back at work on Monday morning, and you are stressed. You just can’t seem to get ahead, so you plod along.
Then you notice the health effects of your career choices.
You are gaining weight and feeling depressed. You may have even spoken to a doctor about your mental health. You begin asking yourself existential questions, such as, “why am I here?," “what was I meant to do?," and “do I really want to spend the next 30 years of my career in this hell hole?”
If this sounds like your situation, it is time to act.
You have tried waiting, but that didn’t help.
The first step in addressing the problem is realizing that you have a problem. The second step is seeking help.
I encourage you to take just 1 small step. That small step could be looking for a different job in a different location, with the understanding that you may have to move. It could be accepting the possibility that you will have to take a pay cut to find a job you love.
Challenge your negative assumptions. Do not believe everything you are telling yourself. If you convince yourself that the job market is horrible, that is all you are ever going to find.
Take action. Take a small step.
Update your CV. Find a pharmacy activity or volunteer opportunity that is engaging. Do not waste another minute.
There are few services available to help pharmacists who are struggling with burnout. There are opioid services but nothing available to help pharmacists break free from burnout and find work that they actually love doing. (It is worth noting, too, that the work you love may or may not be in a pharmacy.)
For my part, I am going to change the fact that burned-out pharmacists have nowhere to turn. I am hosting a master class on November 8, and every month after that, on how to transition into any pharmacy career without experience. I will share lessons that I have learned helping dozens of pharmacists break into new jobs and a step-by-step formula on how to do just that.
Attendance is limited to 100 pharmacists, and the webinar is free. Signing up can be the first small step toward finding a purpose and escaping burnout.
Just as you didn’t choose pharmacy overnight, burnout didn’t happen overnight either. It only takes 1e small step to begin the process of freeing yourself from golden handcuffs.