Voices of Pharmacy: Job Satisfaction Among Pharmacists

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers August 2015

Good Neighbor Pharmacy and Kroger pharmacists, plus the Pharmacy Times Facebook community, discuss the highs and lows of life in the field.

Anne Frank said that laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction. What gives pharmacists satisfaction in the workforce? That depends on a number of factors.

When the question was posed on Facebook, many Pharmacy Times readers reported that coworkers, management, and patients can have both negative and positive effects on their job satisfaction.

Pharmacy Times readers respond on Facebook

"The contact with the clients [is] both the upper and the downer. I love bonding with the clients. It is nice when people trust you, and you are able to really help them through their difficult times, but sometimes the negativity of the clients can become too much to handle."

"Unhappiness: I work at the busiest pharmacy, and at the end of my shift, I am physically and emotionally exhausted. Happiness: Patients are satisfied with our service but not with their co-pays sometimes."

"I went from retail to hospital, which was a big difference. I am happy with the pay rate at the hospital, happy with coworkers, and happy with the professionalism that comes along with working in a hospital and with doctors. The more unhappy aspect: in retail, I was very involved with data entry and knew a lot about meds, whereas in the hospital, my knowledge is not used at all. I feel useless. Although I obviously know I am not useless at the hospital because I do work, but it is just not the same as in retail."

"As a hospital pharmacist, I am happy with my job because of the support we have from our upper-level management for our success. The unhappiness in my career comes from lack of respect from other health care professionals."

"[I like] working in an independent pharmacy and growing the business while helping patients that are struggling. I have had several people comment in the past week how helpful I was and how they like my pharmacy because they know they can talk to me!"

"I’m very happy, because I really am my own boss."

"I am satisfied for the most part. The staffing levels are very low, but everyone seems to pull together as a team, and we make it through. Some corporate policies, though, make it hard to do things. Things are constantly changing, but that’s life."

Many readers attributed happiness in the job to the satisfaction they give patients through their service. One reader said that she finds satisfaction in the job when she builds a relationship of trust with her patients and can help them through difficult times. However, she also admitted that the negativity of some patients can affect her day. This sentiment was not uncommon among the other respondents. The most common sources of dissatisfaction were problems with coworkers, a sense that they were not respected, and patient negativity.

“I love my job, the work is always interesting, and you are constantly learning new things,” one pharmacist wrote. “The unappreciative customers can get aggravating and make for a bad day, but the work itself is never the problem.”

Another reader found that changing her work environment at her pharmacy contributed to higher satisfaction. She wrote that working the night shift turned out to be a good move for her.

“Patients are always glad to see us, and we are able to give them excellent service in the middle of the night,” she wrote.

Owning an independent pharmacy can also contribute to one’s satisfaction on the job because you can be your own boss, another reader pointed out.

Some readers said they appreciated the flexibility of the job. One pharmacist, who said she works at an independent long-term care pharmacy, said she appreciates that her schedule allows her to drop off and pick up her kids every day at daycare and that she can call out sick when necessary because the pharmacy is well staffed.

Finding your niche

Division Clinical Coordinator at Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Michele Fountain, PharmD, has worked for Kroger for 12 years and said she finds high satisfaction in her job. With a number of opportunities for promotion and development, Dr. Fountain has worked as a resident, staff pharmacist, pharmacy manager, floater, and residency preceptor.

Kroger is a good fit for Dr. Fountain because she said the company encourages her personal growth and the growth of the profession. For example, when she found herself without a counseling room at her pharmacy, she explained to the leadership that having one would be a necessity. Within a few weeks, a contractor was building a room for her. In Dr. Fountain’s experience, Kroger guides and supports program development.

“Kroger does not just start a program and hope it develops,” Dr. Fountain said. “The pharmacy leadership guides and supports program development.”

One key to success in finding job satisfaction, according to Dr. Fountain, is making the most of the situation.

“I have seen pharmacists go to their 12-hour shift and just do the minimum needed to get through the day,” Dr. Fountain said. “I have seen others go to that same job and challenge themselves with immunizations, MTMs [medication therapy management sessions], or other initiatives that excite them.”

Dr. Fountain’s advice: if you are going to work in pharmacy for 30-plus years, find a way to enjoy yourself.

Another piece of advice Dr. Fountain offered is not to worry so much about the salary. She said she has seen students go for the more financially appealing option over pennies’ difference.

“When I work with students, I try to encourage them to find a job that [they] will love for years to come,” Dr. Fountain said. “Ask yourself what is important to you. For the most part, the money will work itself out. Find a job that allows you to develop your passion.”

Being in charge of your own satisfaction

A common theme that emerged from the survey results of 6 Good Neighbor Pharmacy (GNP) pharmacists was that each individual is in charge of his or her happiness and satisfaction.

“There are certainly challenges in pharmacy today; however, you have that ability to be as unique or vanilla as you wish,” Roger Malerba responded. “You can tailor your practice to your passions or the needs of the community.”

One GNP pharmacist who wished to remain anonymous said his advice to pharmacy students would be to first find a job opportunity that excites you and makes you happy; then, ask about salary.

Steve Hoffart’s response echoed these sentiments. The GNP pharmacist suggested graduates look for a job that practices pharmacy the way they want to practice.

“Look for environments that are flexible and innovative where you use the knowledge and skills you learned in college,” Hoffart said.

The GNP pharmacists said common problem areas that affect their job satisfaction are cost of goods, third-party network reimbursement, and constantly changing insurance company policies and procedures. However, the pros of the job seemed to outweigh the cons: the survey results revealed that 5 of the 6 GNP pharmacists rated their job satisfaction as high and 1 of the 6 described his level of satisfaction as fair.

Malerba added that “you and only you” have the biggest impact on job satisfaction.

“You have the ability to make all the decisions and steer your ship,” he said. “However, you must live with those decisions, good and bad. There is no safety net.”

GNP pharmacist John Bruce forecasted a bright future for students nearing graduation.

“Look forward to a challenging yet rewarding career,” Bruce said. “Be prepared to share your advice and education to improve the lives of the community.”

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