Senior Care Pharmacy: One Exploding Population, Many Career Paths (Part 2)

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers Fall 2019, Volume 13, Issue 2

During the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP) Annual Meeting in Fall 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 amazing pharmacists working in senior care pharmacy shared their career stories with a handful of students in pharmacy, as part of the Feldman Lecture.

During the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP) Annual Meeting in Fall 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 amazing pharmacists working in senior care pharmacy shared their career stories with a handful of students in pharmacy, as part of the Feldman Lecture (scholarship keynote). As a new employee of ASCP, I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall and hear their stories. What struck me—beyond the exciting, interesting, and unique stories of their careers—was that they were all radically different, but they all had served seniors in pharmacy.

The senior care market is exploding, with projections of the first baby boomer aging to 85 years in 2031. Now is the time for senior care pharmacists, as 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States. There are so many career opportunities to serve this growing population.

Four senior care pharmacists are being featured in Pharmacy Careers® , and each has an amazing pharmacy story. In this issue, Erica Estus, PharmD, BCGP, clinical professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, is our second featured senior care pharmacist.

GROWING UP AND PHARMACY INFLUENCE

Estus grew up in Middletown, New York, a suburb about 60 miles northwest of New York City.

“In high school, I studied a lot, loved to learn, had good grades, and was in just about every extracurricular organization. I took dance lessons and worked at my dad’s pharmacy. My school was in a pretty rural area, and I had a close group of friends who were just like me,” she said. “High school was actually a really positive experience. I don’t feel like it was nearly as drama filled as it seems now, thankfully.”

Estus’ father, a pharmacist, influenced her career path.

“At one point [during] junior year in high school, I announced I wanted to be a writer and major in communications. [My dad] told me, ‘Absolutely not. You’ll never get a job!’ So, although I was angry and felt defeated for a few days, I opted for pharmacy. I never looked back,” she said.

Estus’ husband has influenced her, as well.

“My husband, Todd, is also a pharmacist, and we started dating in high school. I was a sophomore, [and] he was a senior. He wanted to be a pharmacist and was working at a local pharmacy when we met. His plan was to go to a community college to save money and then transfer into a pharmacy program. He came into my dad’s pharmacy looking for a job, and I was taking out the trash when I walked by him strolling up the aisle heading toward the pharmacy. When I asked him about it the next day in study hall, he said, ‘That guy wouldn’t give me a job.’ That guy was my dad. Todd ultimately was hired, we dated through attending different pharmacy schools, we got married, and all was good.”

GETTING INTO SENIOR CARE PHARMACY

In addition to her family’s influence in pharmacy, Estus left behind a corporate position and opted to work part time for a long-term care consultant as she balanced raising a family with her career. At the same time, her husband trained her to be a consultant pharmacist, because he was working in that capacity. She later applied for a full-time position at the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy.

ONE SENIOR CARE PHARMACIST, MULTIPLE GIGS

At the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, Estus coordinates and teaches a geriatric pharmacotherapy elective to students in their third professional year.

She also has a practice site at a local assisted-living facility, with help from fourth-professional year students each rotation block. In addition, she oversees the first professional year of the experiential education program in service learning and is the faculty adviser for the student ASCP chapter.

LOVED MOST ABOUT SENIOR CARE PHARMACY

Estus said that having an impact in senior care is professionally rewarding.

“The value that we have as pharmacists and the relationships we build, [along with] exposing students to a practice of pharmacy they did not know existed in long-term care, but also working with patients directly in the community, I find rewarding. When I ask students, ‘Why did you take this geriatric elective?’ I emphasize that pharmacists will work with older adults in all settings, not just long-term care,” she said.

CHALLENGES AND FRUSTRATIONS IN SENIOR CARE

Estus cited affordability and nonadherence as 2 major challenges in senior care. “We have student programs that help clear confusion about Medicare. And the idea of many seniors never actually speaking to a pharmacist, because medications are delivered and they never go inside a pharmacy. I think it is important for everyone to participate in the process [of health care, and] understand why meds are needed, keeping them if necessary, and using the safest alternatives possible,” she said.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR SENIOR CARE PHARMACY

“Seniors are at home instead of traditional long-term care facilities, and many times families are overwhelmed with medication management. There are so many untapped opportunities to work with seniors and families in the community, in addition to roles that go beyond nursing homes,” Estus said.

ADVICE FOR STUDENTS INTERESTED IN SENIOR CARE PHARMACY

Estus said that some of the best advice she ever received was to not take a job just for the money. “What opportunity will it offer you later? Think about work-life balance in the long term. Multiple part-time positions ultimately allowed me the opportunity to pursue my full-time position,” she said.

Estus also suggests that students have passion, motivation, and are driven for senior care. “With our aging population, I encourage students to pursue opportunities in senior care and look for nontraditional roles that take them outside [the] community and even [the hospital setting] at times,” she said. Estus also views communications skills as vital.

In conclusion, senior care pharmacy offers many amazing career choices for the pharmacy student or practicing pharmacist who wants something different. The sky is the limit!

Pharmacy Careers® previously featured Dee Antimisiaris, PharmD, CGP, FASCP in the first article in this series. Keep an eye out for future featured senior care pharmacists.