Like every profession, the pharmacy profession has its pros and cons.
Since everybody is unique with their own qualities, strengths, and weaknesses, some people are more suited to be a pharmacist than others. To allow you to make this judgment for yourself, here are the ten most common downsides to the industry.
- The Training
Becoming a pharmacist requires a massive amount of education and training. Before you receive your PharmD degree, expect to go through 6-8 years of school.
And these won’t be easy years. You’ll spend hours at the library, studying chemical structures, metabolic pathways, and others things you’ll soon forget after the exam.
If you’re the kind of person who can’t handle waiting 6-8 years or the intense pressure of exams, this field may not be for you.
- The Debt
The average pharmacist graduates with around $115,000 dollars of debt as of 2014. Overwhelming debt can be mitigates with scholarships, part-time and summer jobs, and avoiding private institutions. But, the vast majority of students take on more student loans than necessary.
I talk about my own journey of pharmacy school and how I’m eliminating debt as quickly as possible. Take a listen to my show Pharmacy Life Radio where I share how I paid off $50,000 in 9 months recently.
- The Responsibility
The role of a pharmacist is unquestionably one of immense responsibility. Handing people medicine over the counter isn’t the only part of your job. As a pharmacist your duty is to:
- ensure the quality, safety, and efficacy of the every medication for your patient
- ensure that the medicine is suitable for the patient’s condition
- advise the patient on how to take the medicine and answer all of their questions.
- And, there’s a long list of responsibilities here
This is only a brief list. It doesn’t even include responsibility of leadership, management, coorporate mandates, teamwork, and the list could go on for pages.
People’s lives are in your hands. Living under this kind of stress on a day-to-day basis isn’t for everybody. Plus, the daily stresses varies between the different niches in Pharmacy (especially retail).
- The Workplace
Hospital pharmacies are open 24 hours per day. The hospital pharmacist is busy from the beginning to the end of their shift. Twelve-hour shifts + intensive care patients mean more stress and a higher need for specialized knowledge. Note: not every hospital has 12-hour shifts.
At a retail pharmacy, the pharmacist constantly dispenses prescriptions, answers people’s questions, and also must have a knowledge of insurance regulations, AND deal with the “ever-angry” customer.
Inarguably, the best way to find out if this workplace suits you is to shadow a pharmacist.
When you’re shadowing, picture yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, “Is this a career that will make you happy?”
There are dozens of other types of pharmacies, too many to say here. Do you know what makes the workplace enjoyable? Three things:
- Engaging work
- Fun team members
- A great leader/manager
- Competition is fierce
Competition doesn’t end after you get accepted into a school and gets worse as time goes on.
It’s fiercest in cities and decreases significantly in rural areas.
You aren’t guaranteed a career after you graduate. Of course, I would hope if you wish to become a doctor of pharmacy that you wouldn’t spend the rest of your career “coasting” at one job.
If you’re like most people and collect a ton of debt along the way, you can be in serious trouble. You have to assess this risk for yourself and determine if the possible reward is worth it.
- Unclear Health Forecast for America
Changes have been sweeping across America’s healthcare system recently with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.
Medicare has cut funding, which has closed hundreds of hospitals. It’s difficult to forecast the future, and the career security of a pharmacist is not the same as it used to be. If you’re looking for a rock-solid secure position, this may not be the best career choice for you.
- A PharmD degree won’t make you happy.
It’s a mistake to view your degree as the end-all solution to your happiness. It’s not.
The degree doesn’t change you, it only amplifies your best (or worst) qualities. Depending on the kind of person you are, making more money and buying more stuff can bring on more stress.
- Do you hate problems? Run, don’t walk away from this field.
The very nature of this field means you will be the go-to person for solving problems. Not only will you answer the questions of dozens of patients, you will help other healthcare professionals who work with you.
Not all people are nice, either. You will deal with a lot of jerks. Granted, jerks are in every profession.
There are plenty of other career options that do not have the same level of problem-solving.
- The respect you receive may not be equal to your training.
You will become a highly trained professional who toiled through years of training, too many exams to count, and sleepless nights. You are extremely qualified to advise patients on everything from drugs to their diet, but some people may still observe you as nothing more than a “pill counter.”
- Standing. Retail pharmacists stand too much.
Most employers will require you to stand all day, every day. You’ll also be bending down and reaching up a lot to get prescriptions from the shelves. This makes it a physically demanding career. Not everybody is built to withstand the physical demands of being a pharmacist!
Some pharmacists aren’t allowed to take a bathroom break. If they did, they would have to shut down the pharmacy, and reopen once the pharmacist returned.
- Bonus Con: Possible jail time.
Aside from physical demands, there are strong mental demands too. You have to be on top of your game as a pharmacist. Every. Single. Day.
If you accidentally administer the wrong dosage or even the wrong drug to a patient, there could be serious repercussions, including big fines or even time in prison.
In retail pharmacies, it can get difficult to counsel and advise each patient when it gets busy. When you can’t sit down and talk to each patient, there’s an increased chance that they might misuse the drugs.
Don’t overlook the liability issues of the healthcare industry.
Like every career field, the pharmacy industry has its pros and cons. If you’re the type of person who can handle these downsides, keep on your path. There’s a bright future ahead for you! Trust me, if I can become a pharmacist and handle the daily pressures, so can you!
Check out my Pharmacy Life Podcast where I share more about life as a pharmacist!