The senior care market is exploding. The first class of baby boomers is projected to turn 85 in 2031. In the United States, 10,000 people turn 65 every day. The exciting part is that there are so many career opportunities to serve this unique and growing population. Now is the time for senior care pharmacists.

Read our interviews with the 4 pharmacists in our ongoing Pharmacy Careers® series. Each one has an amazing senior care pharmacy story. These pharmacists also shared their stories with students at an American Society of Consultant Pharmacists Annual Meeting.

In this final installment of the series, Sharon F. Clackum, PharmD, BCGP, CDM, FASCP, president of Rx Answers, LLC, tells her pharmacy story.

GROWING UP AND PHARMACY INFLUENCE
Clackum grew up in several states—Texas, Georgia, and Florida—because her father was a pilot.

“We lived on a rural farm and moved from there to a sub- division outside of Fort Lauderdale, a culture shock. I went to high school in Plantation, Florida, was a band geek, and decided on pharmacy as a career in my junior year. Initially, I wanted to be a marine biologist with the park service and worked at Everglades National Park, but decided on pharmacy after I determined I would always be on food stamps working for the park service, and I will save that for my retirement job. But, I have been scuba diving since I was 14, and still enjoy it today.”

Clackum was also influenced by her parents guiding her toward a career in pharmacy. “My mother was insistent we all go to college, and my dad wanted his girls to be able to support ourselves independently. My sister became a nurse,” she said.

AFTER PHARMACY SCHOOL
A first-generation pharmacist, Clackum started in health care long before she went to pharmacy school, as a volunteer in a hospital. She was influenced by her involvement in the student chapter of the American College of Apothecaries and met a woman apothecary owner who also did consulting in the community.

Since earning her PharmD, Clackum has worked in hospitals and community practice. She has managed multiple apothecaries, started an AIDS program in Atlanta, and consulted for the Georgia Department of Corrections. Clackum has also worked in small retail and large big-box pharmacy. After surviving 9 company mergers, she left a consulting job and assisted living long-term care pharmacy to start her own independent consulting firm in 2009.

“My first consulting job was part-time in a state prison—a very eye-opening experience,” says Clackum. “I decided on senior care pharmacy consulting while running a small pharmacy that specialized in assisted living and nursing home business. I started speaking to elderly groups in the community and really enjoyed the interactions. The personal and professional satisfaction of positive outcomes to the interventions I suggested while working with these folks fed my desire to continue and expand my practice.”

ONE CAREER, MULTIPLE GIGS
Clackum appreciates that consulting can mean practicing within a variety of settings. She currently practices in a blend of long-term postacute care settings and managed care. She consults with health care plans, insurers, and municipalities. “I have started a home IV/hospice company from a grant to provide these services in rural settings. I have consulted in prisons, mental health facilities, developmentally disabled group homes, the community, assisted living, nursing facilities, managed care, both employers and insurance plans, surgicenters, and specialty clinics at employers,” she says.

WHAT SHE LOVES MOST ABOUT SENIOR CARE PHARMACY
Clackum likes the variety of senior care pharmacy. “[There is] something new every day, both business and clinically derived— an ever-changing environment that forces me to be engaged and grow. It also allows me to meet folks from different walks of life and expand my horizons.”

CHALLENGES AND FRUSTRATIONS IN SENIOR CARE
“Legislation, legislators, and rule-makers need to get out of their offices and engage with the real world,” says Clackum. “Rules and regulations are often made and have a negative impact because the people creating them have never set foot in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Some of the current opioid regulations make no allowance for the elderly who have trouble with transportation, in getting to the physician or [getting to] the pharmacy,” said Clackum.

OPPORTUNITIES IN SENIOR CARE:
Clackum sees only a blue sky of opportunities in senior care pharmacy. “With the new payment models, chronic care management, pharmacists embedding into physician practices, specializing in disease management—the future is bright and more exciting now than even 5 or 6 years ago. People are willing to pay out-of-pocket for many of these services, and family members pay as shared [in part 1 of this series]. The traditional long-term and postacute care options, and community-based models are not going away either,” she says.

ADVICE FOR STUDENTS INTERESTED IN SENIOR CARE PHARMACY
Regardless of major, Clackum tells all the students she encounters seeking advice to enjoy the profession they are pursuing. “You will spend more time working than any other portion of your life. You must enjoy your career, or you will end up miserable and changing professions,” she says.

For pharmacy students in particular, she shares that the future is what you make it—regardless of the decade. “There will always be people who say the sky is falling, and you’ll never find a job. Pursue one and you will find it. You just may have to work harder to realize your dream.”

Clackum can remember some of the best career advice she ever received regarding good leadership skills. “The best leader surrounds themselves with people who know more than they do, and delegates responsibility,” she says. “That leader acknowledges that success was a group effort, and not a personal achievement. No one will work harder for you than someone who feels appreciated and valued. Loyalty starts at the top and works its way down the line. Also, encourage all your coworkers to grow personally and professionally, and be gracious when they leave. If you’re the boss, be the boss everyone wants to work for. Last, dress for the position you want, not the position you have.”

In conclusion, senior care pharmacy offers many amazing career choices for the pharmacy student or practicing pharmacist who wants something different. As you can see from Clackum’s story, there are tremendous opportunities for both pharmacy and business skills development in senior care.
 
ERIN ALBERT, PHARMD, JD, MBA, PAHM, is a pharmacist, attorney, entrepreneur, preceptor, author, podcaster, and pharmacy benefit practice leader at Apex Benefits. She offers sincere thanks to all 4 senior care pharmacists who contributed to this series.

If you missed our first 3 articles in the series, Pharmacy Careers® previously featured Dee Antimisiaris,
PharmD, BCGP, FASCP; Erica Estus, PharmD, BCGP; and Craig Stiens, PharmD.