It's Not Just a Job, It's a Career

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Fall 2015

Age gives you the perspective to see how these jobs fit together to make a career.

Perhaps it is my age that causes me to reflect more frequently on my career as a pharmacist. I have held a number of different jobs as a pharmacist, but I have had only 1 career. Age gives you the perspective to see how these jobs fit together to make a career.

As you approach your graduation, I challenge you to not just seek a position but to think about how this job will contribute to your career. Let me share a few observations that I have gleaned about pharmacy as a career.

1. Change is constant in pharmacy. Maybe there was a time when a job or career never changed, but that no longer holds true today. Although many of us in pharmacy prefer stability, change is occurring in every aspect of the field. Find a way to embrace change. Learn to see it as an opportunity to grow professionally. Look for trends that are occurring in health care so that you can begin to anticipate the future and prepare for the changes.

2. Unlearning to relearn is a must. As part of our training, we are taught the way a pharmacist should think and act. When we enter into practice, that training is reinforced. As the practice of pharmacy evolves, however, laws change and roles expand, and we need to embrace new practice models.

3. The patient needs to be our focus. Pharmacists have been given a special role by society to protect the patient from harm. As we accept change and grow professionally, we must keep in mind that the changes must benefit the patient first. Yes, professional growth may enhance our role, but unless we put the needs of the patient first, we are not acting as true professionals.

4. Vision for the future makes today’s practice easier. Change does occur, but sometimes it seems to come too slowly. As a new graduate, we enter practice excited by what we know and what we can do. Sometimes our job doesn’t give us enough opportunities to do all the things we are trained to do. What can sustain us is to keep a clear vision of the future. We can better handle today’s job because we realize that change will come tomorrow.

5. Health care requires teamwork. Even in pharmacy, we realize that we can no longer successfully practice alone. Pharmacists depend on pharmacy technicians to help get the job done.

Physicians depend on pharmacists to help manage drug therapy. See yourself as a team member, even if it is a virtual team. Take time to meet other team members. Call on the physicians in the area and introduce yourself.

6. Collaboration is necessary to advance pharmacy. Too many pharmacists practice in a silo and think that they do not need to work with, support, or understand what pharmacists do in other practice settings. This needs to change. We can only advance the profession in ways that include obtaining provider status by collaborating across the profession.

7. Pharmacy association membership facilitates collaboration. There are a lot of ways we can collaborate, but I have found membership in a pharmacy association to be best. Become a member, volunteer for a committee, and attend meetings. I found that the more I gave, the more I received and the better I became as a pharmacist.

8. Advancement occurs when you think like an entrepreneur. Most of us will be employees, not owners of our own pharmacy. We can still think and act like entrepreneurs, however. Successful entrepreneurs have traits such as passion and self-discipline. When we think and act like we are in charge, our job grows and we grow.

9. A career requires lifelong learning. For some, getting a diploma means that learning is finished, but pharmacists must be engaged in a lifelong learning process. Some call this continuous professional development: determine what you need to learn in order to improve and then figure out how to learn it. When you have completed the learning process, make an assessment of how well you did, and start the process over with new learning goals.

10. Self-discipline is key to career success. In order to have a successful career, you must take responsibility for your growth. If you can’t manage yourself, how can you manage others? Growth requires self-discipline. When you have self-discipline, you will not only know what you should do, but do what you should do.

As I look back on my own career story, these 10 observations seem to be the ones that led to a successful pharmacy career. I hope you find in pharmacy all that you want and more. I did.

Mr. Eckel is a professor emeritus 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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