Graduating from pharmacy school marks the final step in a lifelong process of learning.
After a decisive victory in one of the battles of World War II, Winston Churchill remarked, “This is not the end, nor is it the beginning, but maybe it is the end of the beginning.” I think that remark is a great way to think about your impending graduation. Your degree means that you will now be eligible to sit for your state board of pharmacy exams. Successful completion leads to licensure and the “end of the beginning” of your pharmacy career.
This thought leads me to some observations. First is the idea that you are beginning a career, not just accepting a job. During your short time in pharmacy you may have already begun to realize how quickly things change. Bill Gates reminds us that “we often overestimate how much change will occur in 2 years, but underestimate how much change actually occurs in 10 years.” If this is true about pharmacy—and from my experience, it is—then you will need to keep growing professionally. Graduation is only the end of the beginning of your education.
You will also need to be flexible. What you start doing in your first job may not be what your job will entail in 10 years. This requires you make plans for a long-term career in pharmacy. Your success in your current job necessitates that you do an outstanding job, not just an adequate one. Your goal is to make a very strong effort and do an excellent job where you are working now, to better prepare you for the next step.
My second thought is the idea that life-long learning is vital when one enters a career. In most states, the professional requirements for pharmacy are approximately 15 hours of continuing education annually for relicensure. For some pharmacists, this is a requirement that they try to complete as easily as possible. Don’t get caught in that cycle. A better system being proposed by organized pharmacy is called “Continuous Professional Development” (CPD). Set a goal of what you want to learn, determine how you will learn it, assess whether you have acquired the knowledge and skills you wanted, and then make a new plan. My challenge to you as you begin this life long learning process is that you approach it as if you were doing CPD. Your career success is much more likely to occur when you have a real plan in place—and you work consistently on your personal goals.
It is an exciting time as you graduate from student pharmacist to pharmacist. Remember, your future success is in your hands!
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.