The Greatest Profession

FEBRUARY 01, 2009
Ryan Swanson, PharmD

Dr. Swanson is currently serving as executive resident with the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists. He is a 2008 graduate of Campbell University's School of Pharmacy.

My first 25 years have been blessed ones. I have grown up in the best of families and shared memories with the closest of friends. I have learned under the greatest of teachers in the classrooms of school, church, and life—teachers who showed me that I really could be anything I wanted to be. I should not be too surprised, then, when I look back on my first 6 months as a pharmacist and realize that I belong to the greatest profession.

I will admit that I may be a bit biased—only a bit, though, and I am not alone. Those outside the field of pharmacy are beginning to notice just how great our profession is, too. In December 2008, U.S. News & World Report published "The 30 Best Careers for 2009." The fact that pharmacy was included on the list is not what struck me—I was counting on that. Rather, it was why the periodical chose to spotlight pharmacy as one of the year's top careers. Did it have to do with income? The write-up included just 2 small sentences on salary data. Job security was only briefly alluded to. The opportunity to work flexible hours was not even mentioned. Aren't these the things that make for such a great profession? I certainly do not think so.

The article noted that our profession is a changing one, and those changes qualify it as a "best career." With ever-rising health care costs and a consistent decline in the amount of time physicians spend with patients, the role of the pharmacist is evolving into that of a primary care provider. Pharmacists have long been regarded as the most accessible health care professionals, but these days, we are able to offer our patients so much more than triage: from medication therapy consults to bone density screenings, immunizations and lipid panel evaluations, even diabetes education classes. Although pharmacists have long claimed ownership of many of these activities, a lack of reimbursement for the provision of these services always seemed to say, "We really do not see value in what you are doing." Thankfully, that is beginning to change.

This is not about tooting our own horn. It is about reminding ourselves why we chose pharmacy as our life's career in the first place. Was it really about the money, the job security, the schedule? My guess is that it was not—that it was about the patients we could help and the lives we could touch. In this season of change, take a moment to reflect on how you can make this greatest profession even greater.